Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Book Review: The White Coat Diaries

By Jami Denison


Every year, suffering Grey’s Anatomy fans are promised that this season, the series will return to the light-hearted funny show it was when it first premiered. And every year, people end up dying, leaving town abruptly for fan-hated exes, getting addicted to drugs, etc. Then after the season finale, we are promised next year will be the light and funny one. It’s a vicious circle that Grey’s fans can’t escape.

The White Coat Diaries, which is pitched as Grey’s Anatomy meets Scrubs, will remind Grey’s fans of the roller coaster ride the show has put us on. Madi Sinha’s debut novel mostly delivers on the promise of the pitch. But three-quarters of the way through, it becomes a darker book. 

There’s a lot about Dr. Norah Kapadia to remind fans of Dr. Meredith Grey. A brilliant intern who occasionally oversteps her bounds? Check. A challenging, demanding parent in a mental health crisis? Check? A parent whose medical legacy she dreams of fulfilling? Check. (Although in Norah’s case, these are two separate parents.) A secret, inappropriate relationship with a supervising doctor? Check. A group of inseparable intern pals? Check. But Norah’s not a Meredith clone – she’s an Indian-American who feels a special burden to please her controlling mother, who’s never gotten over the death of Norah’s father when Norah was ten or the way her in-laws once treated her. In Norah’s culture, she’s supposed to marry a doctor, not become one, and this expectation—plus her complete lack of love life before the aforementioned supervisor became a factor—helps differentiate her from Meredith. Because of her upbringing, Norah has trouble saying no to anyone, and part of the fun of the book is rooting for her to find her voice at last. 

For most of the book, The White Coat Diaries provides the same kind of sexy fun that Grey’s did in its first season. It was a little episodic, but I was enjoying the ride so much I didn’t care. Then the tone changed about seventy-five percent of the way through. Norah makes a decision that is clearly wrong, seems out of character, and violates the arc that she had been on. Then at the eighty percent mark, the action jumps ahead two years. This is a jolting change that deprives readers of the chance to see Norah’s growth as a doctor, rather than infer it. With twenty percent of the book left—and a major plot point that still needed resolution—this fast forward is not an epilogue, and I wish Sinha had found a way to structure the book to avoid it. 

Truthfully, though, if I hadn’t loved most of the book so much, I might not have been disappointed in the final acts. Perhaps like the producers of Grey’s Anatomy, Sinha couldn’t help but include the darker side of the doctor’s coat. Readers (and viewers) expect our idealistic heroines to always do the right thing. When they don’t, it’s jarring. But maybe it’s more realistic.

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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