Thursday, November 4, 2010

Remedies Paints Realistic Portrait of a Marriage Suffering, While Seeking Relief from Pain

Kate Ledger's Remedies debuted in paperback in August 2010, one year after its hardback release. I had the pleasure of reading it in honor of its recent trade paperback debut.

Ledger pulls readers in from the beginning with a somewhat risque opening passage. Through it, we learn that although doctor Simon Bear and his successful PR executive wife Emily still love each other, something has created a rift in their relationship. It is a separation that becomes only more pronounced throughout the novel. Ledger dissects their marriage and the nuances of their relationship in this exquisite look at both the ties that bind and the events that tear us apart.

Dr. Simon Bear is a physician with an unwavering dedication to his patients. However, he also throws himself full throttle into a long list of all-consuming hobbies -- the latest an elaborate wine-making contraption. His follow-through leaves something to be desired, and the Bears' basement is littered with the leavings of his abandoned projects. In fact, his only longstanding effort lies in his medical practice.

Although voted one of Baltimore's Top Doctors, Simon was asked to leave his previous multi-physician practice due to irreconcilable differences. Despite this, he has managed to build a thriving private practice with offices in an annex of the Bears' home. With his practice, Simon makes it his mission to end suffering in all his patients. He refuses to give into what he calls modern society's prejudice against prescribing strong pain medications, instead prescribing whatever his patients request.

Emily Bear is also a thriving business person, throwing herself whole-heartedly into her duties in the PR firm where she works. She struggles in her role as mother to the couple's 13-year-old daughter Jamie. Truly, the only success the couple has in in their professional lives. At home, they are all planets orbiting one another with no contact. Always lurking in the air at the Bear house is the death of Caleb, the couple's first child. Although it occurred almost 15 years prior to the novel's beginning, his illness and death haunts the family and prevents any real intimacy between Simon and Emily.

Within the span of a few weeks, things come to a head as seemingly unrelated events drive the family further apart. Simon discovers a new trial of medicine with outstanding results; Emily (literally) runs into an old flame; a new nurse is hired at Simon's clinic; and 13-year-old Jamie fights her own adolescent demons.

Ledger paints a disturbingly accurate portrait of the modern American family, both individually-obsessed and filled with a yearning for family togetherness. Ledger's ending is just as pitch-perfect as the rest of the novel; it's neither a thrown-together happily ever-after, nor a crashing wreck. Rather, it is a symphony of perfectly orchestrated events that chained together, create a cohesive whole.

Ledger states in the book's acknowledgments that it took her ten years to create Remedies. The result of that lengthy period of dedication couldn't have paid off any better. Here's to hoping Ledger's next novel comes a bit more quickly, as I really hate to wait for new books to be written and released once I've found someone I admire!

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