Ordinary Deaths: Stories from Memory

Univ. of Alberta. Oct. 2022. 240p. ISBN 9781772126563. pap. $26.99. MED
Physician and psychologist LeBaron (emeritus, medicine, Stanford Univ.) writes an uneven collection of essays on life, practicing medicine and palliative care, and the ways it shapes clinicians and their lives with their families. The autobiographical essays are arranged chronologically, from the author’s first experiences with death while growing up in Canada, to his later reflections about his experiences in medical school and being one of the first child psychologists to work with patients on death and loss. There are real moments of grace and pages that seem luminous. Reflections on when his family’s horses died (or actually had to be killed due to a food shortage and poor finances growing up) attempt to show the author’s experiences with death in many forms, but they simply don’t carry the emotional weight of stories about real people who died.
VERDICT Readers of Richard Selzer and Abraham Verghese will find this book interesting but lacking the consistent quality of writing that can be found in some of the best memoirs on the topics of death, dying, and medicine. Still recommended.
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