Texas Tech University Press Creative Non-Fiction (Memoir)
A captivating read, Anatomy of a Kidnapping is principally the story of a man—his successes, failures, fears, joys, parenting, and marriage. Steven Berk endured the horrors of a violent crime and participated in the subsequent trial of his kidnapper. Without his background experiences, understanding the choices Berk makes over the course of the kidnapping would be impossible. Interspersed with stories from Berk’s life that move the book beyond the events of the kidnapping, Berk shares insights into the life of a young man becoming a doctor and the ordeals that people who aspire to help others through medicine face on a daily basis.
No book about the medical field is complete without the courage and hopelessness that doctors and nurses face through their interactions with patients. They work at the crossroads of life every day. Readers enjoy looking over the shoulder of a doctor to live in that experience, and Berk gives them quite a ride.
When Dr. Berk finds himself faced with a meth addict who threatens to kill him in his own home—his son in the house—Berk’s calm in the eye of the storm is phenomenal. He draws on his medical training and patient interactions to live through the trauma while protecting his family. The story is alternately the harrowing and heartwarming, unsettling and uplifting, terrifying and touching account of Berk’s life.
The book may be a difficult read for those without a background or working knowledge of the medical field as it, at times, is rather complex. To give Berk credit, he takes the time to give seamless explanations of the terminology that clarify the points being made without being intrusive. He is methodical in elucidating his thought processes while caring for a patient and while fighting his way to sanity in the presence of the harried and dangerous man who kidnapped him. He brings the tension and fear during the kidnapping to the page, creating deep pathos. His logic of thought in the middle of the situation is extraordinary, logic that ultimately saved his life and protected others. I was particularly intrigued by his bravery and frankness in sharing his emotional experiences over the course of his career and during his kidnapping in particular.
Review provided by Mahala Church for her column Barefoot Book Reviews for the Sept 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.