Ms.pegasus's Reviews > Rescue

Rescue by Anita Shreve
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Aug 21, 2011

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bookshelves: fiction
Recommended for: Anita Shreve fans

There are brief moments of perfect balance in life. Looking at your sleeping children, nestled with your spouse, having a beer with your friends.... You wish you could freeze that perfectly ordinary, perfect safe moment of contentment forever. But life moves on. We make choices, relationships change, and mortality moves from the abstract to the concrete.

RESCUE moves in and out of such moments. It opens with a rural Vermont EMT and his daughter, a high school senior, at breakfast. The EMT is Webster (referred to by this surname) and his daughter is Rowan. No mother is present, and we quickly feel the tension as Webster tries to deal with the moody temperament and guarded privacy of an adolescent daughter. In flash-back, Webster's relationship to Rowan's mother, Sheila, is recounted. Like his parents, the reader is both happy and apprehensive for him. At that moment, Webster reflects: “Their time together had been a secret....[he] was afraid that something precious was in jeopardy now....He longed to be back in that moment in the B and B, stroking Sheila's arm before she woke up.”

Webster is a quiet, methodical presence. As an EMT he is well-rehearsed in the mindset of triage. Shreve uses this fact as the tacit structural foundation for the course of her novel. She alternates the reflections on Webster's family life with vignettes of rescue calls. Webster, himself, tries to separate these two parts of himself: He removes his EMT uniform when he comes home: “He didn't want any part of his job to touch the baby. Taking off the uniform was a way of putting aside one life and taking up another.” Yet, the two lives define him, and the trajectory of the book demonstrates how the two parts will come to fit together.

I was attracted to this book by the EMT context, and in this respect it does not disappoint. We view the disciplined relationship between Webster and a trainee, the camaraderie with his seasoned partner, the teamwork that goes into a multiple injury rescue scene, and the acronyms Webster uses to hone his reflexes in each emergency.

Structurally, this book is a gem. More difficult was the contrast of stoicism and decisiveness that defined Webster.
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