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

4.7 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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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)
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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
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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: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,078,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brian Doyle gives the reader everything you would ever want to know about the heart. He proves this with his writing and research-- the amazing miracle of the human heart. Motivated by his personal experiences when one of his twin sons, Liam, was born with a missing chamber in his heart. Brian dives into researching everything he can find on the heart--Heartchitecture. Result is this heartfelt story pouring forth from a father's concern and love for his child.

Part poet and artist he shows his talent quickly telling of Doctor Dave's life--who, at the time the book was written had been married for "five dogs."

Moving and uplifting, his story has a happy ending, leaving the reader with "Donations, Involvement & Information;" which includes listings of addresses and emails of organizations that could use more help.
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By Gail on July 25, 2016
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book holds interesting facts, observations, and musings about the working of the heart, written by the father of a child born with an imperfect heart. I read it in bits, because it reads like poetry, and makes me want to linger over it.
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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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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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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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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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