Monday, October 12, 2015

Dr. Mütter's Marvels ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Book Blog Tour Review & Promo*

Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz

In celebration of the paperback release of the New York Times best-selling nonfiction book Dr. Mütter's Marvels, author Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz will be in conversation with Archivist from the Texas Surgical Society and a Clinical Professor of Surgery, Mellick T. Sykes, MD. In addition to lively talk about the life and times of Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter (founder of the (in)famous Mütter Museum of medical oddities in Philadelphia) and the oftentimes treacherous (and fascinating) world of medicine and surgery during the 19th century, the Texas Medical Association will be bringing vintage surgical tools, ether masks and other artifacts of 19th century medicine to showcase. The event will take place at BookPeople in Austin, Texas on October 12th at 7 PM, and the talk will be followed by a brief Q&A and signing.

A mesmerizing biography of the brilliant and eccentric medical innovator who revolutionized American surgery and founded the country’s most famous museum of medical oddities Imagine undergoing an operation without anesthesia, performed by a surgeon who refuses to sterilize his tools—or even wash his hands. This was the world of medicine when Thomas Dent Mütter began his trailblazing career as a plastic surgeon in Philadelphia during the mid-nineteenth century.

Although he died at just forty-eight, Mütter was an audacious medical innovator who pioneered the use of ether as anesthesia, the sterilization of surgical tools, and a compassion-based vision for helping the severely deformed, which clashed spectacularly with the sentiments of his time. Brilliant, outspoken, and brazenly handsome, Mütter was flamboyant in every aspect of his life. He wore pink silk suits to perform surgery, added an umlaut to his last name just because he could, and amassed an immense collection of medical oddities that would later form the basis of Philadelphia’s renowned Mütter Museum.

Award-winning writer Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz vividly chronicles how Mütter’s efforts helped establish Philadelphia as a global mecca for medical innovation—despite intense resistance from his numerous rivals. (Foremost among them: Charles D. Meigs, an influential obstetrician who loathed Mütter’s “overly modern” medical opinions.) In the narrative spirit of The Devil in the White City, Dr. Mütter’s Marvels interweaves an eye-opening portrait of nineteenth-century medicine with the riveting biography of a man once described as the “[P. T.] Barnum of the surgery room.”


Hall Ways Review:
Intriguing? For some. Interesting? For all. But I have no idea how to categorize this book. Fiction? Non Fiction? Both? FABULOUS cover aside, readers looking mostly for the marvels (the medical oddities) may be disappointed. Similarly, readers looking for a solid biography, will find there wasn't enough source material to really know Dr. Mütter and quite often, some logical liberties have been taken to flesh him out. Readers looking for a raw snapshot of the medical, surgical world of the early to mid-1800s and how one doctor was ahead of his times -- this is your book.

In Dr. Mütter's Marvels, readers get an often startling recounting of the fledgling days of surgical procedures, primarily in Philadelphia where the nation's premier medical teaching schools were first located.  Author Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz provides a good basic history of the founding of Jefferson Medical College and its famous "Faculty of '41," which included Dr. Thomas D. Mütter. The book sheds light on the thinking and practices of that era, especially highlighting Mütter's divergence from the norm, and that is where those readers seeking any kind of ghoulish material may be satisfied. Surgeries and maladies are described in a graphic nature, raw and real -- just as they would have been at the time. Also included is a sprinkling of drawings and photos to add to the ghastliness of some of Mütter's patients' ailments. Readers will be fascinated by the conditions under which surgeries took place and amazed that anyone ever survived.

As a biography, unfortunately, the book misses the mark because, as the author admits, there just isn't much information to be found about Dr. Thomas D. Mütter.  As such, Mütter remains a person who readers know only from his actions, his clothing, and numerous quotes about him. There are holes that beg for filling -- for example, he's described as devastatingly handsome and stylish, but there's no mention of flirting or courting or his effect on the opposite sex. Instead, he suddenly "takes a wife" and readers know nothing of her beyond her pedigree and nothing of the couple's twenty plus years of marriage.  That aside, the biggest hole is Mütter's death. From the beginning, it's clear Mütter will die young, and it's clear he'll die from failing health -- there are even chapter ending teasers which build up to his demise -- but readers will never know what killed Mütter. (Obviously, the information is not to be found, but it seemed awkward to not acknowledge it.) 

The writing flows naturally and the language isn't complicated or particularly academic, except in the numerous quotations used (borderline overused). There is a lot of white space in the book, plenty of illustrations (including a full page at the start of each chapter), and the last sixty-plus pages are the author's source notes; boiled down, this is not a very long book and might be well placed in a high school library -- it has all the right elements to draw in a reluctant reader. The book does need another pass from the editor, as there were typos, numerous comma and pronoun agreement errors, some misplaced modifiers, and several sections where pronouns caused confusion about the actors in the sentence. 

Readers will get maximum enjoyment from this book if they go into it knowing what they're going to get is not deep or extensive information. It's interesting, it's informative, and if nothing else, readers will now understand a little more about the namesake of Philadelphia's famous Mütter Museum and perhaps view the very existence of his collection differently.

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is an award-winning non-fiction writer, poet, and touring author. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she first visited the Mütter Museum in the fourth grade. She lives in Austin, Texas.


Oct 3 - Books and Broomsticks promo 
Oct 4 - The Page Unbound promo
Oct 6 - Bookishjessp review
Oct 8 - Texas Book Lover Author Q&A
Oct 9 - My Book Fix review
Oct 10 - Missus Gonzo review
Oct 12 - Hall Ways review

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*NOTE FROM KRISTINE at HALL WAYS: With the exception of the Hall Ways Review, the content of this promo post was provided by Lone Star Literary Life Blog Tours.  If you're a Texas blogger interested in joining the ranks of Texas Book Blog Tours, contact Tabatha Pope. Hall Ways Review will post separately

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