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Oxygen: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Carol Cassella
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (371 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $6.01 (38%)
Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
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Book Description

With the compassion of Jodi Picoult and the medical realism of Atul Gawande, real-life anesthesiologist Carol Cassella’s riveting national bestseller seamlessly melds compelling women’s fiction and medical drama to create an “involving debut that’s just what the doctor ordered” (People).

Dr. Marie Heaton is an anesthesiologist at the height of her profession. She has worked, lived, and breathed her career since medical school, and she now practices at a top Seattle hospital. Marie has carefully constructed and constricted her life according to empirical truths, to the science and art of medicine. But when her tried-and-true formula suddenly deserts her during a routine surgery, she must explain the nightmarish operating room disaster and face the resulting malpractice suit. Marie’s best friend, colleague, and former lover, Dr. Joe Hillary, becomes her closest confidante as she twists through depositions, accusations and a remorseful preoccupation with the mother of the patient in question. As she struggles to salvage her career and reputation, Marie must face hard truths about the path she’s chosen, the bridges she’s burned, and the colleagues and superiors she’s mistaken for friends.

A quieter crisis is simultaneously unfolding within Marie’s family. Her aging father is losing his sight and approaching an awkward dependency on Marie and her sister, Lori. But Lori has taken a more traditional path than Marie and is busy raising a family. Although Marie has been estranged from her Texas roots for decades, the ultimate responsibility for their father’s care is falling on her.

As her carefully structured life begins to collapse, Marie confronts questions of love and betrayal, family bonds and the price of her own choices. Set against the natural splendor of Seattle, and inside the closed vaults of hospital operating rooms, Oxygen climaxes in a final twist that is as heartrending as it is redeeming.

Editorial Reviews


"In Oxygen, Carol Cassella's taut novel, Dr. Marie Heaton, an assured anesthesiologist at the top of her game, is forced to face the personal and professional fallout from an operating room disaster. Marie finds herself on the losing end of dollars-and-cents medicine in a malpractice suit, questioning herself, her skills, her colleagues, and her life choices. I couldn't wait to race to the end to see how her story played out, and I wasn't disappointed." -- Lalita Tademy, author of Cane River


"In Oxygen, Carol Cassella's taut novel, Dr. Marie Heaton, an assured anesthesiologist at the top of her game, is forced to face the personal and professional fallout from an operating room disaster. Marie finds herself on the losing end of dollars-and-cents medicine in a malpractice suit, questioning herself, her skills, her colleagues, and her life choices. I couldn't wait to race to the end to see how her story played out, and I wasn't disappointed."-- Lalita Tademy, author of Cane River

"A subtle, compelling plot that twists and twists again. This quickly becomes a book you cannot put down." -- The Dallas Morning News

"A finely crafted mystery, as well as a sparkling literary work." -- THE DENVER POST

"Like her protagonist, Carol Cassella has the heart of a poet and the mind of a physician; the result is a striking meditation on the complexities of love, the fragile miracle that is the human body and the burdens and blessings of being a healer." -- Stephanie Kallos, author of Broken for You

"More than just an assured debut novel, this book is a tour de force, as emotionally involving as it is intelligent. Carol Cassella writes with the clarity and precision that are the hallmarks of her other profession....The fine, sharp details of her portrait of a gifted doctor facing a devastating crisis will stay with you long after the book is closed." -- Susan Wiggs, author of Fireside and Just Breathe

" A startling plot twist, combined with Cassella's first-hand understanding of our ailing healthcare system, makes this involving debut just what the doctor ordered." -- PEOPLE

Product Details

  • File Size: 3654 KB
  • Print Length: 337 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1416556109
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (July 1, 2008)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001BAJ25M
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,183 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
96 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "There has been a complication." July 16, 2008
The protagonist of Carol Cassella's "Oxygen" is thirty-seven year old anesthesiologist Dr. Marie Heaton, a dedicated and conscientious physician. After introducing herself to her patients and reassuring them that they are in good hands, she administers drugs that bring about "a temporary loss of sensation, an absence of pain during ... otherwise painful procedure[s]." Marie loves her job, "its precision and focus, its balance of technical skill and judgment." For the past seven years, her excellent performance has earned her the respect of her colleagues at First Lutheran Hospital in Seattle, Washington. Although she is single and childless, Marie is too busy to dwell on her ticking biological clock and her anemic social life. She once had a fling with a fellow anesthesiologist, Joe Hillary. However, they decided to settle for a platonic friendship and are now best buddies rather than lovers.

Marie's life comes to a screeching halt when she administers anesthesia to an eight-year old girl named Jolene Jansen. For some inexplicable reason, Jolene's heart rate plummets and her blood loses its oxygen supply. Although Dr. Heaton tries every technique at her disposal to bring the child back, she fails. This devastating tragedy leads to sleepless nights during which Marie second-guesses herself, wondering what she could have done differently. She is also on tenterhooks waiting for the inevitable malpractice suit to be filed. Marie is raked over the coals by lawyers and members of the hospital board, but she is more concerned with Jolene's mother, Bobbie, who is disconsolate over her daughter's death.

This is a touching book about a courageous and compassionate woman who is nearly brought to her knees by a series of calamities.
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70 of 76 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A medical/legal drama reviewed by a doctor and a lawyer January 15, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am a lawyer and my father is a retired surgeon. We both read this book, so we can give views from both sides of the aisle.

I found this book painful to read for its woeful lack of any substantive knowledge of how the legal system actually works. Lawyers are portrayed very badly; essentially we are all Brooks Brother wearing, BMW driving, yacht owning sharks out to get the poor innocent doctors. As I spend more than fifty percent of my practice representing abused kids, I was offended by the caricature. It is difficult to list all the legal inaccuracies without major spoilers, but I shall divulge a few. In the book it takes an extraordinary long time for the autopsy on the girl to be completed (this was something my father also noted as unrealistic). Before the autopsy is concluded, a case has been brought, experts have been hired and deposed (which would be very expensive) and the doctors have all been deposed. It would be impossible to adequately prepare a case without knowing what the cause of death actually was.

Once it is revealed, Dr. Heaton is told that she may be facing potential criminal charges. Again, this would never happen! The only time a doctor would be charged is in the event of gross negligence, e.g., performing surgery while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. That was not the case here.

Dr. Heaton has a huge "woe is me" attitude about why this is happening to her when all she wants to do is help others. There are many references in the book of other characters (particularly her sister) telling her that her work is so much more important than anyone else's as she saves people. At one point the character refers to herself as God helping people.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OXYGEN is a great read with some juicy surprises. July 21, 2008
Dr. Marie Heaton takes great pride and pleasure in guiding her patients into the land of Nod so they can have their gallbladder out, their knee replaced or their baby delivered without pain and often even without awareness. She loves her job until the unbearable happens --- an eight-year-old girl under her care dies in surgery, despite all her best efforts. The crisis leads her to question not only her professional competence but also her personal relationships. And yet, even as she carefully documents each methodical step she took and each drug she administered, she is haunted by inconsistencies.

This first-person narrative works on many levels --- as a mystery, as an exposé of the sometimes brutal juncture of the medical and legal professions, as a family drama, and as a romance of sorts. Marie has never found time for a husband. "I never meant to dam myself off from those. I just knew they would require careful scheduling." In the aftermath of the child's death she feels more alone than ever. Taking a painful leave of absence from her duties while the investigation proceeds, Marie faces a different sort of challenge --- her aging father's demise, and the realization that if she is ever going to mend her relationship with him, now is the time. Meanwhile, new knowledge comes to light through the child's autopsy that seems to implicate Marie even further. The hospital begins to back away from her, and there is the specter of criminal charges being filed against her, on top of the malpractice suit.

Through this difficult time, Marie takes some comfort in the rejuvenation of a former love affair with Joe, another anesthesiologist on the hospital staff. As their relationship heats up, more clues trickle in about the real cause of the child's death.
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More About the Author

Carol Cassella is a practicing physician and novelist. She was a closet writer for years before blending medicine and fiction in her first novel, OXYGEN, (Simon & Schuster, 2008), the story of an anesthesiologist tangled in the aftermath of an operating room catastrophe. Her second novel, HEALER, follows a doctor whose life is turned upside down when her husband's hot new cancer drug explodes amidst ethical controversy. GEMINI, published in 2014, blends mystery with a love story when a hit and run victim is life-flighted to a Seattle hospital's ICU. All three books were Indie Best Picks and together they have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Carol grew up in Dallas, Texas and graduated from Duke University with a degree in English Literature. After working in publishing for several years, she decided to pursue her fascination with all the weird and wonderful ways humans behave and misbehave by studying medicine. She graduated from Baylor College of Medicine and is board certified in both internal medicine and anesthesiology. Prior to writing fiction, Carol wrote about global public health issues in the developing world for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She has been a contributor to the Wall Street Journal as an Expert Panelist in Healthcare, and edits a literary section in Anesthesiology, the journal of the American Society of Anesthesiology. She is a founding member of Seattle7Writers, a non-profit supporting literacy and reading in the Pacific Northwest, and also serves on medical organizations working in Nicaragua and Bhutan.

Carol lives on Bainbridge Island, WA with her husband Steve and their two sets of twins. She enjoys hiking and cross country skiing in the North Cascades, and is currently working on her fourth novel.

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