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The Wet Engine: Exploring Mad Wild Miracle of Heart Hardcover – May 1, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 186 pages
  • Publisher: Paraclete Press (May 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557254052
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557254054
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #957,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nine years ago the author's wife gave birth to twin boys. One was entirely normal, but the other was missing a chamber in his heart. At five months and again at 18 months, Liam had open-heart surgery. Someday he will need a heart transplant, but for now he "runs around like an insane dorky gawky goofy heron and rides his bike and shoots hoop, and skateboards and swings and punches out his brother and snarls at his sister and refuses to make his bed...." This book is about Liam, and it is also about his surgeon, his family and dozens of others with heart-related stories. It is about heart as a physical organ—how it is supposed to work, how surgeons try to fix it when it doesn't—and about heart as a metaphor for "the distilled essence of character and spirit." Most of all, it is about love, which has "many forms and levels and shapes and flavors and speeds and depths and topographies and landscapes and colors and musics." Doyle, the author of four other books of essays, sometimes spins out of control with sprawling stream-of-consciousness sentences, and he says "waaaay" waaaay too often. Still, it is hard to put down this wide-ranging meditation on the fragile mysteries of human life. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"(this book)has produced something organic---indeed, sized like a vital organ and fairly pulsing with life." -- Christian Century

"A unique and beautiful book written in celestial prose." -- Cynthia Ozick

"I can thoroughly recommend this books. It touches the heart in so many ways." -- Eureka Street

"If you're looking for something to rekindle your spiritual passion, pick up this book and take it to heart." -- National Catholic Reporter

More About the Author

Brian Doyle (born in New York in 1956) is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, in Oregon. He is the author of thirteen books, among them the novels Mink River (big) and Cat's Foot (little; a friend of mine says it is a 'novella' but that sounds like a disease or a sandwich spread), the story collection Bin Laden's Bald Spot, the nonfiction books The Grail and The Wet Engine, and many books of essays and poems. His Huge Whopping Headlong Sea Novel THE PLOVER will be published in April 2014 by St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne Books, bless their mad hearts. Brian James Patrick Doyle of New Yawk is cheerfully NOT the great Canadian novelist Brian Doyle, nor the astrophysicist Brian Doyle, nor the former Yankee baseball player Brian Doyle, nor even the terrific actor Brian Doyle-Murray. He is, let's say, the ambling shambling Oregon writer Brian Doyle, and happy to be so.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 15 customer reviews
It is touching, informative, funny and a very manageable read.
C. Hope Starr
Like Annie Dillard at Tinker Creek, Brian Doyle muses poetically about an amazing array of facts and figures about our hearts.
Paul Myers
Thank you, Mr. Doyle, for this moving story of hope, strength, inspiration, and admiration.
C. Lawinger

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
You've heard the expression, "Don't judge a book by it's cover?" In this case, don't judge this book by it's title. Get into the pages of this book -- get into the 'heart' of this book -- and you'll be intrigued. Doyle, an award-winning essayist - and well he should be-- is a talented writer breaking all the rules about composition -- and I LOVE IT - he can write the longest run on sentences with incredible interest - reading them is sorta' like being in am Olympic bobsled run. His pages leave you energized, fasinated and breathless. He's a genius at weaving scientific fact, historical information, emotions and spiritual musings on a single subject. Probably one of the few people that could make this hodegpode work. Even if you have no medical or personal interest in heart problems, read this book -- and give it as a gift to a nurse, doctor or someone recovering from heart surgery
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Spirit&Life reviewer on July 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This extraordinary little book filled with wonder and gratitude defies categorization. Poetry and narrative blend to give us an intimate view of a parent's pain, hope and despair because of his infant son's desperate need for surgery to repair a defective heart. Doyle's minutely detailed description of the workings of our "humming, hammering, holy heart" is joined with an appreciative biography of the pediatric heart surgeon, Dr. Dave McIrvin. In his elegant language the author asks what we might be if we would "act as if our words really matter, if our words become muscled mercy," and he invites us to ponder "what human beings might be if we ever actually rise to our own sweet wild possibilities." Sr. Lenora Black, OSB
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Lawinger on January 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is definitely a beautiful tribute to his son AND his surgeons!

To those who may feel as though the author has resorted to "simple hero-worship", I must tell you that you will NEVER fully understand the author's position. He does, in fact, worship those surgeons. He puts them on a pedestal and will never be able to thank them enough.

I know this because those same surgeons, (Dr. McIrvin, Dr. Iguidbashian, Dr. Hagup) also performed surgery on my son who was born with the same heart defect of Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. They are the epitome of pure genius.

I bought this book in part because it IS a tribute to those men. How would you feel about someone who gave your precious child the gift of life and hope?

Thank you, Mr. Doyle, for this moving story of hope, strength, inspiration, and admiration.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By William Reifsteck on September 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I saw this book listed on your suggested items several months ago. I had purchased several of Brian's previous books and always found them uplifting and thought provoking. It was only a few days after I purchased this book, The Wet Engine that my wife had a heart attack so it brought home to me the frail qualities of our most important engine. Doyle writes with a very sensitive but yet funny style that kept me turning the pages even though I needed sleep. As his books go, I would recommend this one as a leap forward in his style and insight.

My highschool writing teacher told me that you need to write about something you know or are close to. Evidently Doyle understands this as all his writing is deeply personal and close to home.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By trimniks on April 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
No one writes quite like Brian Doyle. He is lyrical, literate, unpredictable, unafraid, kind, and damned funny. In this book, he is also incredibly moving, as he writes about his son's wounded heart and the doctors who save him. As he explores all the emotions and science leading outward into the world from his family's journey, we share in his curiosity and his reverence and his joy. A fine book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Knapp on August 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This little book shows how important and precious each life is. It reminded me that every day is a gift, and the way we live can be a gift to all those with whom we interact. This book is huge even in its brevity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Paul Myers on February 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Wet Engine is a book with heart about the heart. This book is not only homage to his son's surgeons, it is a wild and ponderous exploration of that which is miraculous in creation and in our very souls. Yes, we hear about the particulars of his terrifying and then triumphant experiences surrounding his son's heart condition, but we also have the heart exposed to us in all of its metaphorical, allegorical, and literal glory. Like Annie Dillard at Tinker Creek, Brian Doyle muses poetically about an amazing array of facts and figures about our hearts. And, like Brian Doyle, he plumbs those facts and figures and evokes awe and laughter and tears and he gives little nods and gestures to suggest that some amazing creator-genius may be lurking in those details. Are they the finger prints of God? Thank you Mr. Doyle. A great read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jake Edwards on December 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Unless a book exclusively dedicated to the heart is written for students of cardiology, it can easily become things no book should ever be: maudlin, saccharine, cliche, banal or about Ann and Nancy Wilson's band. Though Brian Doyle's "The Wet Engine" was written with the non-cardiologist in mind, it was none of these things.

But Doyle's book deserves much higher praise than my observation of what it is not. It thumped about with unexpected twists and turns, packing humor, elation, deep pathos, insightful spiritual meditations, pop trivia, history, and fascinating medical details into a remarkably "lean book," as he calls it. Between poignant reflections on his son Liam's congenital heart malformation--Liam was born with three chambers in his heart rather than four--you'll find stories about incredible people; people like Dave, who trots the globe to saving children's hearts, including Liam's, by the hundreds; people like Hope, who grew up in a Japanese-American internment camp but whose heart refuses to be bitter; and people like Hagop, a big-hearted genius who has "single-handedly dragged [Armenia] toward modern medicine" by working three months in the U.S. each year to finance the hospital he started and works at in Armenia the other nine months, using pencils and flashlights in makeshift operation rooms to save lives when necessary.

These stories, which deserve the slanted elegance of Brian Doyle's conversational prose, are good medicine. They gave me a good laugh, tugged at tears, and inspired sincerity in prayer. Only a book that isn't what it shouldn't be can do what "The Wet Engine" does.

I also highly recommend "Leaping: Revelations & Epiphanies" and anything else Doyle has written.
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