The White Coat Diaries
By: Madi Sinha
Publication: September 15th 2020 by Berkley
Genre: Adult, Contemporary
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Goodreads description--Grey’s Anatomy meets Scrubs in this brilliant debut novel about a young doctor’s struggle to survive residency, love, and life.
Having spent the last twenty-something years with her nose in a textbook, brilliant and driven Norah Kapadia has just landed the medical residency of her dreams. But after a disastrous first day, she's ready to quit. Disgruntled patients, sleep deprivation, and her duty to be the "perfect Indian daughter" have her questioning her future as a doctor.
Enter chief resident Ethan Cantor. He's everything Norah aspires to be: respected by the attendings, calm during emergencies, and charismatic with the patients. As he morphs from Norah’s mentor to something more, it seems her luck is finally changing.
When a fatal medical mistake is made, pulling Norah into a cover-up, she must decide how far she’s willing to go to protect the secret. What if “doing no harm” means risking her career and the future for which she’s worked so hard?
I like stories that have a point. I particularly like stories where the entire point of the plot, characters, and conflict is about love. Relationship love. Not career love. Not mountain hiking love. Not even self-love (although that has its time and place). It's not enough for me to read a story about a character that learns something. It's not enough for me to read about a character that experiences something. As a reader, I get to escape from life and experience for a span of however many pages what the character experiences. And what makes me the happiest is when those characters are falling in love. Does this make me deep or shallow? I don't know. I don't really care. Reading isn't about analyzing my "why." It's about enjoying the process. And so that's what I personally evaluate against when I'm reading a book.
The White Coat Diaries was one of those books that I got to the end of and thought "What was the point?" I know that sounds a bit harsh, but I've got to be real. The beginning was slow to get going for me. I struggled with Norah. I struggled with her mom. Norah is dealing with a lot of self-esteem issues. She's the nerdy girl who has a beautiful, spontaneous best friend. She's always felt a bit of an outsider looking in. She hasn't fully connected with her family and she hasn't fully connected with her friends or colleagues. I felt she was almost self-loathing through much of the book. Dealing with a lot of shame (feeling bad about who she is). This isn't a fun type of character to read about. Norah's mother is a hypochondriac. Her constant worry and nagging through the beginning of the book weighed on me as it did Norah. And Norah's brother Paul and his wife Reema were as well. I could see and understand all perspectives, but it didn't set things up for success when compared to my reading preferences.
Recently, I've read a couple of books with Indian characters and love both of them. I was on the hunt for more of the same when I read the description of The White Coat Diaries. Yet. the description (and this bears more exploration in a discussion post for the future perhaps) left me feeling like Norah's story would be headed in a distinctly negative direction. The description implies that Norah and Ethan fall in love and somehow both of them are pulled into a fatal error which results in a cover-up. A budding relationship likely can't survive that. And if it can, I'm not sure it's a relationship that I want to read about. The conflict is spelled out for the reader, but there's no real hope given of things turning out in any positive manner. And man do I want to discuss what actually happened in detail, but I can't spoil it. Well unless you want me to. *******Highlight for spoiler: I was expecting Ethan to ask Norah to cover his tail. What I wasn't expecting was how far Norah would willingly go for Ethan. Especially given the knowledge of his relationship with Elle. I was really disappointed in her. End spoiler.*******
The medical side of the story was what I would expect. It's what every TV show has shown us about the medical training program. ER, Grey's Anatomy, House, many many more. All of these TV shows reveal the rigorous and difficult training our doctors have to go through. They each show the negative sides to the medical field and the struggles doctors are facing as well. Some moments were presented so well, and I felt Norah's overwhelm. It was easy to see how mistakes could be made at any given moment. Other times, I felt like only the negative aspects of the profession were shown. Of course, I have no firsthand experience in the field. I wondered at times if a political agenda was being presented, but since I couldn't be sure, I have to say that if you're going to include one then this is the best possible way to do it. In a way, where the reader doesn't feel beat over the head with an opinion they are implied to be stupid if they don't agree with.
Since I've already stated that relationships are my favorite parts of stories, I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about them. I liked the camaraderie of Norah's fellow interns. The residents were each hard to like. Is it not possible to have a decent person in this position? The attendings too were all pretty despicable. Norah's family was demanding and not understanding which is odd considering her father was a doctor as well. Meryl, I had mixed feelings about. How things went there just left me feeling sad for and disappointed in both Meryl and Norah. Ethan, I couldn't so much fault him for his part in leading Norah on because he truly felt like he was being upfront with her. Gabe, I was semi rooting for. Overall, I was just disappointed in everyone.
Initially, The White Coat Diaries was slow to get going. I struggled to connect with the characters. I wasn't clear on what the purpose of the overall story was supposed to be other than ultimately taking responsibility for your mistakes even if it means losing what you thought you wanted. When I immediately finished, I thought I would give The White Coat Diaries 3 Stars, but since I've analyzed it more with this review, I'm thinking it's more of a 2 to 2.5 Star book for me. I didn't hate it, but it certainly doesn't align with my reading preferences. And I kind of wish I could have spent the time reading a different book. Have you read The White Coat Diaries? What did you think? Let me know!