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Let Me See

by Kirsten Dodge
Baskerville Publishers Inc.
Publication date: November 13, 2004
Price: $14.95
ISBN 1-880909-67-7

Review by Lyn Phillips, Bastrop Texas
If you long for adventure, I recommend local author Kirsten Dodge’s newly published book Let Me See. She will take you hiking in the Davis Mountains, rafting down the Guadalupe, traveling to Mexico, and ranging across the frontiers of relationships – personal, professional, and political. In the midst of all this sightseeing, there will be spelunking, too, as Dodge draws you into the startling depths of ordinary events that can change instantly into life-threatening.

Zoe Dempsey, M.D, an immunologist at an Austin hospital, is an explorer, even an adventurer, by nature. Caution is not a byword of either her personal life or her career. When we meet her, near the end of the millennium, she is concluding a year of treatment, required by her chief of staff, for addiction to pain medication.

That Zoe doesn’t agree with the diagnosis establishes a central question for the reader: is Zoe’s view of reality always right-on, or is it sometimes skewed ?

While hiking in the familiar terrain of her beloved Davis Mountains, Zoe helps a stranger find his way, but at the same time loses aspects of her earlier self. Preoccupied with genuine dilemmas in her career, she loses touch with her husband, daughter, and best friend. She nearly drowns in the river, mixes medicine with menace on a mission trip to Mexico, and is thrown in jail mainly because she disses the FBI for asking her simple questions about the stranger in the mountains.

Yet Zoe, like the central characters in the novels of Walker Percy, is on to something. She begins to notice, as one thing after another goes wrong in her life, that in trying to protect ourselves at all costs, we are in danger of harming ourselves.

She notices this apparent paradox not only in her personal life and her political forays, but also in her medical practice. Zoe fights hospital policy to allow a curandera, a shamanic healer who is also a nurse, to visit a patient who is deathly ill. Because she is open to considering spiritual healing when medicine and science fail to help, she faces determined opposition from other doctors who refuse to consider that anything other than surgery might help alleviate auto-immune digestive disorders.

When the patient survives, Zoe’s colleagues are forced to see that in the treatment of illness, as in other aspects of life, appearance may belie reality.

Along with the curandera and her patient, Zoe endures not a dark night of the soul, as she has in jail, but an illumination, a surrender to something beyond her understanding. Forced to use tools other than those of science and reason to save her patient, she begins to see, not through a glass darkly, but face to face with another reality. We readers are offered the same chance.

--Lyn Phillips, co-founder of the Localismos Book Club in Bastrop, Texas;
author of The Kid Who Could Not Quit Rhyming

"It's the rare imagination that can spin a tale that not just encompasses the mysteries of auto-immune disease and the excesses of the Texas separatist movement, but makes of them a whole. Dodge pulls this off beautifully . . .'we label bits of ourselves the enemy so we can attack.' This is a political novel. In the end, it's all about power—in one iconic state of these United States, in a foreign land, in a hospital, in a marriage, in a jail, and in our scared souls, where the really big battles are waged. It's a great story."
--Mike Bryan, author of Uneasy Rider: An Interstate Way of Knowledge
and The Afterword

"The remarkable adventure of a remarkable woman doctor—a story well told."
--William Goetzmann, Pulitzer prize-winning author of
Exploration and Empire

"In Let Me See Kirsten Dodge gives us a glimpse into modern Texas that goes far beyond the usual stereotypes. Her narrator, Zoe Dempsey, a smart, likeable, sexy medical doctor, runs head on into conflicts with scientific rationalism, Texas Separatists, Mexican Federales, and, scariest of all, the FBI, in this highly intelligent first novel."
--Don Graham, author of
Kings of Texas: The 150-Year Saga of an American Ranching Empire

"Searching for renewal, Zoe is swept—gradually at first, then suddenly—into a modern American version of Hades, where life and death intersect. This American Hades is sometimes bureaucratic, sometimes high-tech, but it transforms her as surely as though she'd fallen through time into the ancient myth."
--Robert Gover, author of One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding

"Let Me See is at once an exciting and a deeply serious novel. It tells the story of a principled and thoughtful woman . . . brought face to face with powerful forces, biological and natural, as well as psychological and personal, which threaten her existence as a professional, as a wife, and as an American. In telling this woman's story, Kirsten Dodge envisions a new and necessary female heroism, one that ties vulnerability and depth of feeling with courage, tenacity, and vision."
--Pat Sharpe, Author (with Frances E. Mascia-Lees) of
Taking a Stand in a Post-Feminist World

"Kirsten Dodge deftly connects two desperate struggle of our era—immune systems and geopolitical identity—in startling and intimate discoveries made by a woman physician in Texas. Let Me See swirls with competing passions of science, mysticism, quests for survival. It is an action-adventure tale with brains."
--John MacNicholas, author of
award-winning play The Moving of Lilla Barton

"Let Me See is a wonderful book, full of excitement and deep meaning. Zoe Dempsey discovers what everybody else resists knowing: networks, like immune systems, come to function autonomously. She intuitively resists the pressure to conform and takes all sorts of chances, until she runs up against the lethal dimensions of normality in a thoroughly unforgettable climax. We leave her living in that liminal state, the blurred border of possibility where the world can be renewed."
--A. David Napier, author of The Age of Immunology

"You will love this compelling and very contemporary book. I can't compare Let Me See to any other novel I've read—it can’t be pinned down to one genre. The powerful characters and the storytelling are not like anybody else's."
--Joe Slate, professor of American Literature and Film,
University of Texas at Austin

"An interesting tale from a strong, new voice. Let Me See balances a good story with some challenging, thought-provoking questions that will leave the
reader at once satisfied and wondering."
--Archer Mayor, author of the award-winning Joe Gunther series

"I love reading about the adventures of gutsy women, and I love encouraging new women writers. This book offers both."
Sarah Weddington, author of A Question of Choice
and lawyer who won ¬Roe v. Wade

"Zoe Dempsey, a Texas immunologist, seeks meaning beyond the sun-drenched homogeneity of the Texas medical establishment . . . Zoe is a brave and smart searcher, a woman alert to how 'the truth might get bent.'"
--Pat Cusick, author of many books for children

by Kirsten Dodge
Baskerville Publishers Inc.
Publication date: November 13, 2004
Price: $14.95
ISBN 1-880909-67-7