Lightning Flowers: My Journey To Uncover the Cost of Saving a Life

Little, Brown Spark. Nov. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9780316450362. $28. MED
In this debut, Standefer writes a brave, bold story of the technologies that often save us—and their failure to always do so. From its opening sentence (“Nothing can prepare you for what it feels like to be shocked by an implanted cardiac defibrillator”), the book grapples with modern medical technology’s environmental, ethical, and social costs. Standefer shares personal narratives that firmly root these questions in lived experience, and she weaves the history of medical technologies such as the invention of the EKG into a memoir that is firmly grounded in its sense of place, family, and identity in gut-wrenchingly beautiful ways. This is an adventure of sorts that moves from California to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Madagascar jungle, where Standefer draws attention to how much is lost in our efforts to secure resources that advance medical technology while consistently retaining a sense of shared human concerns with the material body in all of its weaknesses and limitations. Along the way, the author talks personally about grieving her previous life, adjusting to life with an internal defibrillator, and acknowledging pain.
VERDICT An engaging medical memoir about living with, and learning to accept, life's scars.

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