Review of Doctors and Friends by Kimmery Martin
Through various doctors' and medical experts' points of view, Martin paints a picture of a worldwide pandemic, crises and impossible situations, and powerful, sustaining friendships.
Kimmery Martin's Doctors and Friends begins with a group of seven women, friends since medical school, reuniting in Spain.
But as they catch up on each other's careers and personal lives, explore, eat, drink, and celebrate, a global pandemic begins to take shape.
Kira Marchand, an infectious disease specialist at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, is at the heart of the organization's swift response to the pandemic. The story alludes to a horrifying choice she will be forced to make during the global crisis.
Compton Winfield, an ER doctor in New York City, suffers a tragic loss and struggles to keep up with the pandemic-driven crush of patients and urgent needs while keeping her children safe.
Hannah Geier is an ob-gyn in San Diego who has been struggling to have a child. She learns she's pregnant just as the pandemic throws the world into chaos.
I wondered if the multiple, alternating points of view would allow me to feel connected to these characters. For a time, I confused some of the seven characters and their significant others, and the fact that I was reading this in short bursts admittedly didn't help my own tracking of who was who. I spent early pages reorienting myself. As the story progresses, Martin mentions each of women and their families, but keeps the story relatively streamlined with three main points of view.
I was hooked on the medical details and the behind-the-scenes medical experiences of the experts. The various ways Martin made the pandemic feel personal to the story--as with the account of Patient Zero's experience and his two degrees of separation from the main characters--added to the urgent feeling.
The experts in the story scramble to make sense of what's happening and determine how best to cope with various aspects of the virus, and this felt uncomfortably familiar. However, in the book, politicians and those in power show early acceptance of the virus crisis and launch an efficient response, buoyed by technological abilities to trace and track. It's satisfying to witness the recognition and success within this fictional version of events.
Doctors and Friends was written before the Covid-19 pandemic and published in the fall of 2021. In her author's note, Martin explains her extensive research into pandemics, and clarifies that her experiences with the real-life pandemic shaped only minor edits to her story (for example, she added Zoom as a meeting structure).
It's possible very little in the book was changed in light of real-world events, but, and maybe this is unreasonable, but I very much wished that Martin's pre-Covid-19 version of events had been purely preserved. I was fascinated by the technological advancements that allowed for the scientists' and government's responses in the novel, and I'd very much like to have read what I knew was an unadulterated, Martin-imagined chain of events that preceded our own Covid-19 reality.
The cover and title gave me the initial impression that this was a light fiction book, but the topic and tone is anything but.
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?
Kimmery Martin is a local-to-me North Carolina author who is also a trustee of our local library. After she spoke at our library foundation event last year, my book club read this book together.
Martin is a former emergency medicine doctor. She is also the author of The Queen of Hearts and The Antidote to Everything.