Top positive review
14 people found this helpful
(3.5 stars) "Interacting with clients was like wearing a cardigan made from fishhooks."
on September 6, 2011
Mitchard has written such an unusual story that I am torn between the struggle of her young heroine, Sicily Coyne, and confusion with a storyline that bridges both the bizarre and medically ground-breaking to the banality of a mismatched romance. In fact, everything about Second Nature is extraordinary, a problem for Mitchard, who must move her very human characters from one stage of the plot to another with some degree of plausibility. Daughter of a fire captain in a close-knit Chicago community, thirteen-year-old Sicily is horribly scarred in a holiday blaze that takes the life of her beloved father, demands countless reconstructive surgeries and adjustment to a world made small by necessity. Now in her 20s, Sicily has a career as a medical illustrator and depends on the unwavering emotional support of her Aunt Marie. Set in the not-too-distant future, medical technology makes a facial transplant a real possibility, a decision fraught with consequences, including lifelong medications to prevent tissue rejection. The upside, however, is significant. What will she do? What do you think?
Preparing for her wedding to a childhood friend, the sheltered Sicily is pushed from her comfort zone as a previously impossible future opens up. A heartbreaking confrontation with her fiancé, the transplant surgery and an impulsive romantic entanglement deliver Sicily to an unexpected, morally-weighted choice with life and death consequences. From breathing the rarified air of the truly unique, Sicily plunges into an otherworldly existence, medical and emotional post-transplant obstacles, the chasm between Sicily's intelligence and twenty-something emotions and the viability of a "normal" life. The author's biggest dilemma: How do you render an extraordinary character right-sized? Even surrounded by a supporting cast, Aunt Marie, the unflappable lead surgeon, dedicated medical staff and the friendship of the Cappadora family (The Deep End of the Ocean), Sicily Coyne will always be larger-than-life. That's Mitchard's fault, the precarious balance of plot post-transplant full of missteps, awkward moments and frankly unbelievable situations.
The juxtaposition of extremes often too much to overcome, the author seems irresistibly drawn to the predictably conventional, a saccharine happily-ever-after scenario that is such a poor fit with Sicily's circumstances. The promise of potential medical miracles is the true message of this novel, but Mitchard stumbles under her story's ambitions- too much to ask from readers or this plot. In the end, I am as split as Sicily's life pre- and post-surgery. The scientific details, while gruesome, are effectively presented, the psychological aspects of the novel on far rockier terrain, from medical technology to a confused twenty-something with age-appropriate dreams. Mitchard drops the ball, opting for a happy ending, no resolution at all. Luan Gaines/2011.