A life lived...
Constance Studer's collection of short stories, Queen of the Sugarhouse, brings to life strongly drawn characters dealing with challenging circumstances. A registered nurse in ICU struggles to do the right thing after she makes a mistake. A homeless Desert Storm veteran grieves for his own loss of health, as well as for the loss of his father. Two women test their life-long friendship while one of them undergoes a facelift. A doctor's life is forever changed during one twenty-four hour shift in the Emergency Room. A writer, committed to a psychiatric hospital because of an accident, uses her writing to heal. A novice nurse learns her job from taking care of a confused old man who has suffered a stroke. A waitress struggles with caring for her younger brother, who has muscular dystrophy. A daughter reluctantly comes home to nurse her difficult mother, who drove first her husband then her daughter to flea the Ohio farm where their livelihood was making maple sugar.
"Every person has a story," Carl Jung observed. "Derangement happens when the story is denied. To heal, the patient needs to rediscover his story." Constance Studer's characters find healing in making pottery, taking photographs of objects not usually thought of as beautiful, in climbing mountains, in writing a novel. Healing is a process, a journey toward balance, connectedness, meaning and wholeness, rather than an outcome.
Constance Studer uses her family's story to illustrate larger ethical dilemmas in which modern medical professionals find themselves. The history of why prefrontal lobotomies were performed on patients is explored and why only a few physicians raised dissenting voices to this mutilating surgery. Both the author and her father were injured by medical treatments that were intended to help. Her father's lobotomy caused irreversible brain damage. Connie's vaccine-related illness caused systemic lupus. She cites an article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., which investigates a possible government cover-up of a mercury/autism scandal. Thimerosal, the ethylmercury preservative used in vaccine preparation, has been suggested as a cause of the epidemic of autism and other neurological disorders among children. This book is a plea to the medical-pharmaceutical-government complex to ban the use of thimerosal in the production of vaccines and to reevaluate the number of vaccines administered to infants and children.
Body Language is a testament to survival, to the healing power of nature. Studer built a home by the shores of Grand Lake. Watching the river fill up the lake year after year renewed her faith in the sense of continuity and progression. Grand Lake, with its bird calls and bombastic waves, was a magic marriage between the visible and invisible, a landscape that refreshed the eye, cleansed the heart, and recharged the spirit. Sometimes the body sings hymns, sometimes the blues, but always the body hums along. Healing is a process, a journey toward balance, connectedness, meaning, and wholeness, rather than an outcome.
Each poem in Prayer to a Purple God resonates in primal intensity and regard. Each poem focuses on a health emergency, the body's vulnerability, the acts of doctors and nurses, and the vivid inner perceptions of those involved. Simultaneously, astonishingly, all are painted in terms of larger contexts and presences of earth. In the critical care unit, one patient is half woman and half bird, one crawls across the glass in an aquarium like a snail, one has a torch in his skull, one has a physician illuminate "her arteries and shelves/ of bone in a ruby gloom," one is held within white-curved wings.
Though grounded in the profound struggles and emotions of the hospital, many of these poems are reminiscent of Neruda's odes in how they focus and yet open through metaphor and association. This is one powerful, compassionate and unique book of poems,"
James Grabill, author of Poems Rising Out of the Earth, Oregon Book Award for Poetry, 1995.