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The Big Free

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A young female doctor faces the violence, debauchery, and larger-than-life characters of a New Orleans surgery in this funny and gritty medical novel.
New Orleans , 1982. Voodoo spells, prostitutes, prisoners, and veterans who are adamant about the size of their manhood―it’s all just another day at Charity Hospital, also known as The Big Free . It’s a medical free-for-all with the toughest trauma surgery in America, and Elizabeth―fresh from medical school in Charleston, wearing pearls and pink plaid socks―is one of the first women to work there.
Half of the doctors who start the surgery program never finish. Nothing in her proper Southern upbringing prepared Elizabeth for the gritty and gruesome world she now experiences on a daily basis. And even if she’s tougher than anyone first expected, the question remains . . . will she make the cut?
Full of drama, humor, and New Orleans flavor, The Big Free is a young doctor’s coming of age story as only a true medical insider can tell it.

292 pages, Paperback

First published July 7, 2017

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About the author

Martha B. Boone

3 books21 followers
Dr. Martha Boone is one of the first one hundred women board certified in urology. After 23 years of education, she practiced academic urology for five years and private practice for twenty-four. She was named TOP DOC in urology in Atlanta for over a decade. Her first novel The Big Free fictionalizes her first six months at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. Her current book, The Unfettered Urologist, is nonfiction and explains the pearls of wisdom she never had time to include in a short office visit. It will be available August 15,2023. Her third book, Mother Charity, will be released in March of 2024 and is the sequel to The Big Free. Dr. Boone retired to write full-time and travel with her husband.

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5 stars
176 (49%)
4 stars
95 (26%)
3 stars
62 (17%)
2 stars
14 (3%)
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8 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 57 reviews
Profile Image for Mary Anne.
2 reviews1 follower
October 17, 2017
This book is captivating and would make an amazing television series or movie! The author is one of the first female urologists in the world, and this is a fictionalized account of her residency at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. The cast of characters is colorful and enchanting, and the insight into what it's like to be a resident at a free hospital in a party city is fascinating. A highly enjoyable read - I quite literally could not put it down!
July 28, 2017
Great storytelling!!

Author tells this story so that you feel as if you are there. It is not merely a good read but an amazing experience! I hope that there will be future opportunities to experience Dr Elizabeth Roberts!!
Profile Image for T.M. Mike Brown.
Author 4 books54 followers
June 15, 2020
Upfront I confess I have met Martha Boone, so I did not have to read the author's bio in the book. She is a world-renown urology surgeon. She also tackled writing a novel with the same precision and passion as she performs in her practice. Like her main character in the story, Martha was one of the first female urology surgeons in the world, as well as one of the first female surgeon interns at what was the famous Charity Hospital -- nicknamed The Big Free -- in New Orleans. She overcame the male bastion there as the first female surgeon intern at Tulane Medical School in 1982. Though fictionalized and filled with mostly fictional characters, Martha is clearly Dr. Elizabeth Roberts--a South Carolina over-achiever who entered Tulane's trauma surgeon intern program in New Orleans in pursuit of her dream. The story will mesmerize you and keep you laughing and squirming as you follow Elizabeth's grueling quest to succeed. In the 1980s, chauvinism dominated chivalry in the South but Elizabeth manages to survive what could only be described as hazing meant to weed out the weak so only the best survive. I pray Marta Boone writes more like this. Well done...
2 reviews1 follower
August 28, 2017
Martha Boone is my doctor, beside being the top urologist in Atlanta, she is a top storyteller. Who knew she could write a beautiful and interesting novel about her life at the "Big Free". I see her in every word and phrase. I can't say enough about her care and intelligence when it comes to taking care of the people who put their lives in her care. I highly recommend The Big Free to any and everyone who is thinking of a career in medicine. I also recommend this book to anyone who loves to read a warm, sometimes funny, sometimes heart wrenching and always interesting. It is a good read, a good time and a beautiful story of how a dedicated woman wanted to make her mark as a woman in a male dominated field in Urology. Dr. Boone is a great storyteller and a super doctor, I highly recommend both. I feel honored to be one of her patients and I am so glad she wrote her novel about the training she got at "The Big Free". Please, please read this book.

Profile Image for Jill Gooch.
47 reviews
October 2, 2017
Excellent book!

I loved this book. Well written and witty. I couldn't wait to turn the page. Would love to read more from this writer.
Profile Image for Evan.
11 reviews
January 16, 2018
I was eager to read this book, being a graduate of Charity Hospital's Emergency Medicine program and having many crazy experiences that many people have a hard time believing and relating to. This book is a semi-autobiographical fiction about a young woman's first 6 months as a Tulane surgical internship. While there were many of the places, people and experiences that I could relate to and enjoyed the descriptions of, unfortunately the entire book was really hurt by poor story telling.

Perhaps the biggest issue was the very poor and unnatural dialogue. It seemed so fake at times that I just was cringing and shaking my head. The next annoyance was related to the self-aggrandization of the main character (a slightly veiled version of the author), If I had to hear about her 32 cousins and the values she gained being raised on a farm, I may not have finished the book...just painful.

And finally, as a physician, there were several errors in medical explanations that seemed more like Grey's Anatomy than a book written by a real physician, that was particularly disappointing. Many circumstances just can't/wouldn't happen. Yes, it's fiction, but come on...

1 review
January 22, 2018
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and recommend it for anyone looking for a great read. Written by a doctor, the main character Elizabeth’s point-of-view is enlightening and authentic. And I can relate to her challenges of leaving the farm and making it in a man’s world. I hope we get to read more of Elizabeth's adventures in the future!
Profile Image for Jill Robbertze.
601 reviews4 followers
November 6, 2017
This is fiction but based on the factual experiences of a young female surgeon while doing her residency in a very busy hospital in New Orleans. Well written and reads like a memoir. If you are interested in anything medical and the human condition you will love this book.
January 15, 2018
Very Good Book

Book is well written. It was hard to put down. Loved reading the descriptions of the old Charity. Brought back a lot of memories.

Profile Image for Tom.
299 reviews12 followers
September 17, 2018
Although though characters were annoying and the dialogue stilted it was ultimately a good read
Profile Image for Dana Ridenour.
Author 4 books63 followers
October 31, 2021
The Big Free is a realistic medical drama set at Charity Hospital in New Orleans during the 1980’s. The author, a medical doctor who did her surgery training at this hospital, gives readers an authentic look at what it takes to become a surgeon. The story follows Dr. Elizbeth Roberts, a young resident fresh out of medical school, as she runs the gauntlet in the one of the toughest trauma surgery programs in America. The book details her realistic struggles as she strives to survive in a male dominated profession. Even though the novel is fiction, I love the authenticity of the story. Looking forward to more novels from this author.
Profile Image for Emily.
204 reviews
June 10, 2019
This could have been a much better book. I got so hung up on the tone of conversation... it's supposed to be 1982, but the way people talked, I kept feeling like I was reading a book set in the 1920s or 30s. Though it was nice to read a novel about one of the places my Daddy used to work. :)
Profile Image for Myra.
6 reviews
July 16, 2023
Excellent story!

I loved this story of a female intern in New Orleans and her adventures/ experiences at Tulane and Charity Medical centers. I am sorry to see the words “The End”
31 reviews
February 21, 2019
3.5 stars. Great stories, but somewhat amateur writing and clumsy editing. The same scene/situation (Elizabeth’s first patient death and subsequent Death and Complications Conference) is simultaneously described as happening in both July and in November. Often in the same conversation and on the same page.

P219 Top of the page, a reference is made to it currently being July. Bottom of the page, same conversation, Dr. Peterson says it’s November. Also there are references in the passage about how hot it is in the summer, but then a conversation about Saints games which obviously happen in the fall.

P233 Elizabeth thinks to herself ”It’s hard to believe nearly 6 months have passed since my first prison clinic” as she walked into conference about her patient’s death, even though that death supposedly happened her first month, in July. Same chapter, P241 Dr McSwain in calling same conference to order, states “It is July”

P265 “Dec 15, 1982. Three weeks had passed since the D&C conference.” The same conference that happened in July in the previous chapter?

There are several other minor inconsistencies in the story telling like that, but those kind of mistakes drive me bonkers and distract me from the story. It’s hard to understand how that made it past an editor.

Overall an entertaining/quick read. I grew up in New Orleans and enjoyed the descriptions of the many colorful New Orleans personalities and the spirit of the French Quarter. I have no doubt that working at Charity was a wild ride and I can only imagine that these stories are just the tip of the iceberg. If she writes a second book I’ll likely read it, I just hope she has a better editor!

November 26, 2021
I hesitate to give it even one star, although I do credit Martha Boone with capturing the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, Fellini-esque surrealism of CHNO. Other than that, it is so poorly written--my sixth grade granddaughter writes more cohesive prose--with lazy sentences ("As she . . .," "As he . . . "), and despite her claim to have had hired an editor (in an interview she said, "I hated seeing all those red marks on my work!") clearly she did not take any professional advice. She changes times/days/seasons within the same story, and worst of all, she completely disrespects the history and facts of Charity by saying it was built in the '20s, not the '30s; that it has 40 stories instead of 20; that it was run by the Ursuline nuns, yet in describing one of the nuns, she has her wearing the headpiece of the actual order that runs it, the Daughters of Charity, albeit with a laughable bun and curls escaping from the back. I am a native New Orleanian with an R.N.--I had experience at CHNO in my peds rotation, studied anesthesia under John Adriani, worked in LSUMC pediatric genetics, so I am intimately aware of that beloved institution. I also have an MFA in Creative Writing, so I know of what I speak with regard to her attempts to put words on a page. I most resent her co-opting the term "The Big Free,"for her book--one we hold dear. And I defy anyone to prove to me how she could run down seven flights of stairs holding fourteen pints of blood! GMAFB.
188 reviews
December 28, 2017
Great Book

It all felt so real, the reader really got to know Dr Roberts, and feel her pain and her joy. A truly good hospital read.
I did not want it to end.Hoping for more from this author.
1 review1 follower
February 23, 2018
This is my second read, This is not the kind of book I normally read... I am so very glad I spent the time reading it. It allowed me a perspective on life I would not have been able to get otherwise. I could just about not put it down. Would lay in bed reading till my eyes were too dry to blink... Thank you Martha Boone for sharing this amazing story. I CAN NOT WAIT TILL THE NEXT BOOK !!! Please get busy and get it done... :)
Profile Image for J.L. Callison.
Author 5 books42 followers
December 6, 2017
The Big Free was not so Easy

A fascinating autobiographical novel of a doctor's life as an intern in Charity Hospital in New Orleans, or The Big Free, as it is known in the community.

If you are looking for Nobel laureate literature, you won't find it here. If, however, you enjoy a personal account of the trials, defeats, exhaustion, and the joys of the transformative days of a new doctor's life, you've found it. Dr. Boone is not a polished novelist, but in places that worked to her advantage, for it lent an aura of authenticity many popular novelists don't enjoy. One can almost feel and smell the humidity, the mildew of an old, poorly maintained, charity hospital in the bowels of The Big Easy, in her writing. One of the most poignant moments for me was at the end when Elizabeth gets on the elevator with the elderly elevator operator and the lady who cleans the ER rooms between patients. They recognize Elizabeth's concern for them and recognize the makings of a great doctor. I could also note some of her successes along the way, as well as one particular failure, but I'll leave that to the reader to find. I can assure you, you will be moved.

I sincerely hope this is not the last book from Dr. Boone. I know I will gladly pick up the next one she writes.
4,131 reviews7 followers
April 1, 2018
This was interesting, but the stilted language of the characters was so off-putting I could hardly finish it. I sincerely hope the author is not as much of a snobbish, self-righteous prig as she portrayed herself in the book. I know when I worked in a big teaching hospital in the 60s, interns were certainly overworked and underpaid, but I thought by 1982 that those kinds of things had improved somewhat. I was not a M.D., but had many friends/acquaintances who were. I also never heard about the deliberate cruelty shown to the main character -- and as you probably have heard, nothing is secret in a hospital setting. I congratulate Dr. Boone on sticking it out and following her dream of being one of the 1st 100 female urologists. In reality, she probably could have done it without enduring what she did at Charity Hospital.
Profile Image for Kshydog.
838 reviews2 followers
April 9, 2018
Written as more biography than fiction - each chapter an incident from when working as a surgical intern at a charity type hospital in New Orleans. The descriptions of New Orleans fit the city. Really got a feel for the exhaustion felt by a new doctor, the need for learning how to treat patients as well as getting along with the staff. Enjoyed the descriptions of the types of patients she encountered. Nice variety of ER trauma episodes described with true feelings for the patient without a lot of judgement. The style of writing was more of a beginner, the constant comments about life on the farm and her family got too redundant, her attitude of being a good person because she was raised as a good southern girl ruined the plot by being brought up too often.
Profile Image for Bobbi.
420 reviews
May 28, 2018
The author was one of the first female urology surgeons, and this book is a fictional account of her residency at Charity Hospital in New Orleans in 1982. While the writing is stilted at times, the story itself makes up for that. Her descriptions of bone-numbing fatigue, lack of initial support from some of her male colleagues, eating on the run, sleep deprivation, and the enormous responsibility of dealing with life-threatening situations daily are gripping and pulled me right into the ER beside her. The chapter about the loss of her first patient was especially poignant and, in my opinion, the strongest writing in the entire book, which paints an honest, impressive look at the grueling years it takes to become a physician.
Profile Image for Patricia.
238 reviews1 follower
March 18, 2018
I was completely enthralled with Martha Boone's story of Charity Hospital and its surgery program. Just reading about what interns experience in an inner city hospital ER made me completely exhausted. Elizabeth, the main character, is someone you want to befriend and encourage as she treats every kind of situation imaginable brought in from the streets of New Orleans. Boone writes with depth and caring of the characters and locations. So many emotions are brought forward while reading and waiting for the outcomes of treatments...you are captive to the mood of the hospital, hence this book. If you like medical stories and hospital politics and true patient care, you'll love this. book.
Profile Image for MaryN.
66 reviews
August 18, 2020

Will Elizabeth make the cut and become a surgeon? I loved reading her story of the hard, brutal hours required to make the cut in a chosen musical rotation. WOW what an enlightening story! This book is like actually being in the story with Elizabeth as she lives the hectic days and nights giving life-saving medical expertise to the people of New Orleans.
Having lived in New Orleans for a few years, the description of places, food, the people's generosity, the language and the humor are all true. This all gives a beautiful background to a story of love, hope and tenacity. I loved every page.
45 reviews1 follower
April 27, 2023
Martha B. Boone is a private practice Urologist in an Atlanta suburb. She obtained her surgical training at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. She was one of the first one hundred women urologists in the world. The Big Free is her first published work of fiction and combines medical humor and historical fiction in an urban hospital.

I first heard about her because she recently was on a Viking cruise ship and another passenger mentioned in a blog that this was an interesting book to read. I would concur. Medical training is rigorous and most of us probably don't appreciate that fact.

This was an easy, quick read that left me wanting more to read.
Profile Image for Cathy.
20 reviews
March 29, 2019
I am happy and proud to call Dr. Boone my doctor. I flew through this book in less than a week. I couldn't wait to pick it up and read it again when I had to be away from it. I loved reading about the main character, Dr. Elizabeth Roberts and was glad to learn that a lot of it was based on Dr. Boone's own experiences at Charity hospital. I laughed out loud several times especially during chapter 9 about the male GU exam! And cried while reading chapter 12 - Death in the ER. I'm looking forward to Dr. Boone's second book and following Dr. Roberts next experiences and adventures in medicine.
1 review1 follower
November 14, 2019
I recently saw this book in Dr. Boone's waiting room so I picked it up to scan it while waiting to see her. The very first page grabbed me, thus I left with one of the books in hand. While I was reading it in the evening I would be chuckling and my husband would ask why??? I enjoyed every minute of
reading the book and then passed it on to my husband who couldn't lay it down because it was so enjoyable. We can't wait to see what Dr. Boone does with her next novel, which I understand she is
working on. The Big Free would be a great Christmas gift to all your book-reading friends.
5 reviews
July 16, 2020
Great read! It really brought back memories of my training. I had intended to become a urologist but was so put off by the meanness of the surgeons that I became a pediatrician instead. Nothing she says portrays about the way the doctors treat each other is over-exaggerated.

There are a lot of parts that made me laugh out loud and some brought me to tears. I remember the exhaustion, crazy hours, and horror of making mistakes and killing someone. She does a good job of portraying all these things realistically.

I hope that she writes another book.
1 review
Want to read
August 11, 2020
The Big Free by Dr. Martha Boone was excellent! My book club read it and we had the author join in with us on our "virtual" book club meeting. She captured it all! Years ago I worked at LSU medical school which was associated with Charity Hospital so I could identify with all that she wrote of her experiences.
I highly recommend the book.!!! After reading it, you will truly appreciate the grueling internship and residency workload (and excellent training) of a big inner city hospital. Her sense of humor comes through in her writing as well as her strong work ethic.
Queenie Ross
3 reviews
June 5, 2018
An excellent first book from Dr. Roach. The book takes us on an emotional and eye-opening journey for this proper, Southern, female surgery intern. We see how she learns about life outside of rural South Carolina from the many different people she meets (doctors, nurses, patients) and how she finds strength in herself to persevere in a tough world of men long before the me-too movement. This is an entertaining and easy book to read.
99 reviews1 follower
May 4, 2020

This is one of the best novels I've read that is written by a physician. The story is real both in story and characters. The reader is taken into the world of medicine with all it's caring and excitement. All the characters are realistic and likeable. The story flowed with no dull periods. The author showed her own character and kindness with the characters and built and kept going throughout the book. This is a.thoroughly delightful book.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 57 reviews

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