Reviews

Release Day (REVIEW) of The Last Patient by David Johnson – Guest Review by Andrea Lechner-Becker @AndreaElbee

Hello awesome readers, I have wonderful news! We have a guest reviewer joining us! I am so pleased to introduce you to Andrea Lechner-Becker, who has her debut book coming out in May, so stay tuned for more about that! We are so thrilled to have her rounding out our genre coverage.

Enjoy her review of The Last Patient, which was released today, Mar. 27, 2018!

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The Last Patient 

the last patient

Author: David Johnson
My Rating: 3 Stars
Pages: 318

This is slightly different from what I posted on Goodreads. My rating is closer to a 3 than a 4 on this for the religious aspects. I didn’t realize when I grabbed this from NetGalley under the Literary Fiction section, that it was categorized in Amazon under Christian books. For a Christian book, I think it’s a 4. For Literary Fiction, IMO, the religious aspects aren’t impartial enough nor are the character’s strong enough for the category. With that said, there are spoilers in this post, which I’ll highlight in headings to warn readers ahead of time.

The Gist

What does one do near the end of his or her life? Make amends, share secrets and talk about God… a lot. As a hospice worker, Maggie is privy to many people at their ends, but there’s something special about Israel.

The Good

Both Maggie and Israel as characters are… fine. The real magic happens when they’re together. The way Mr. Johnson describes them physically and their interactions in Israel’s trailer play phenomenally. When they dialogue the book feels real and raw and beautiful.

The general plot is also strong. The premise of how these two meet and the way their stories mirror each other is well done. And, of course, Mr. Johnson is a seasoned writer and his writing shows this. It’s well executed and a well told story.

Wishes and Thus the Loss of a Star

This book has all the right elements, I just WISH it had a few finer details.

  1. Wish 1: Different structure. Much of the book’s first half focuses on the pasts of Maggie and Israel, told chronologically. I wish these backstories were revealed DURING their conversations. Hearing about their pasts in third party narration ahead of their conversations left me anxiously tapping my foot during the second half, thinking, “Share the information with each other already so we can move on!” I also loved the play between them so much that I wanted more detail about how they reacted to hearing specifics in the story, how would Maggie describe this thing that happened to her? Hearing it from a narrator just isn’t the same. It’s factual instead of emotional, which isn’t as powerful.
  2. Wish 2: Can I get a specific time and place for my imagination to hold onto please? There wasn’t a specific year mentioned until much later in the book, and even that was only in reference to a past year, 2005. So, I still don’t exactly know when we are. For example, at one point Maggie looks under Israel’s bed and wishes for a flashlight. I thought, Why not use your phone? After having to think, Well, maybe it’s not smart phone time yet? I couldn’t tell if it was a commentary on Maggie’s usage of technology or a nod to the times.
  3. Wish 3: Less convenient plot holes. SPOILERS!
    1. SPOILER! Maggie has a sister, Rachel. They get separated and Maggie never REALLY tries to find her. She called the place she thinks Rachel might be, but that’s it. Then later, she finds Israel’s Ada by “Googling it.” Sooooo, she knows HOW to Google things and find people, but she’s choosing not to with Rachel. And so then I started to question whether she didn’t WANT to find Rachel because she felt guilty or scared, but she never confesses these feelings to Israel and so it seems like a matter of convenience to Heisman the whole thing as to not have to spend words on the Maggie/Rachel relationship anymore.
    2. Doesn’t Maggie have any friends?!?!?! I know she has at least one, Charlie. But she never confides in Charlie about issues in her life. She never makes friends in college. And there’s no addressing why. As a woman, I just kept thinking, Where are Maggie’s girlfriends?!
    3. SPOILER! People die. Seriously, this is a big spoiler, so don’t read it if you don’t want to… Three men die, all are awful, see point 1 below, but NONE have police investigation a part of the storyline. No one gets questioned. Like, REALLY? ALL THREE of these people just die and there’s NO questions about it? Com’n. And further, Crime and Punishment is an ENTIRE book about the stress from worrying about being “found out.” There is NONE of that in this book. I just don’t get that.

Stereotypes, the Loss of the Next Star

Ultimately, stereotypes are too prevalent in the story.

    1. Characters. The antagonists are carbon copy villains. Rarely is a person the cardboard cutout of pure evil portrayed in this book, and even rarer for two people to experience no-redeeming-quality humans that shape their lives in such profound ways. Both Maggie and Israel are basically surrounded by shitheads their ENTIRE lives.
      1. SPOILER! For example, Maggie’s father is not a nice man. Given the stereotypes I’m talking about, you can probably easily guess why. At some point, he’s inappropriate with Rachel (Maggie’s sister). It would have been SO much more interesting if he wasn’t. How would Maggie reconcile how he was with her versus her sister? Why would he only abuse Maggie? These are deep character questions that would’ve made the read more interesting.
    2. Dialogue. All the dialogue sounded pretty much the same. Every once and a while Israel would sound more “simple,” but then he’d bounce into very well-spoken. At one point I wondered if when he was well-spoken it was when God was speaking through him, but I couldn’t really make that connection through the narration. He tends to look up when speaking with the man upstairs.
    3. Settings. If you wanted to portray a smartypants professor in your book, what would his office look like? Either leather chairs and mahogany bookshelf filled with first editions oooooooor African souvenirs, right? This professor has African relics and leather chairs. The rusting truck in front of Israel’s dilapidated trailer, of course without the front tire. Other tires are strewn on his lawn. It’s all just cliche.
    4. Plot. Do any old men NOT meet a young boy to bestow their gold pocket watch to? Christopher Walken should trademark this plot device. But beyond it being cliche, Israel never even LOOKS at that damn watch? It doesn’t really mean anything in the rest of the story. Lame.

Conclusion

For all my critiques, I read The Last Patient in a day. It’s an easy read that brings you through the experience well. It’s well-written by a seasoned author and if you’re Christian, you’ll probably really enjoy it. If you like complex characters and want to hear how their deep philosophical motivations drive their actions, then, meh. I would certainly recommend the book for a plot-driven reader.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley (it was my first!) in return for an honest review.


Review by: Andrea Lechner-Becker

andrea lechner-becker

Bio: Andrea Lechner-Becker is a lot like her last name, a little awkward, kinda funny and very German (only the GOOD German stuff). She left her prestigious and high-earning career in technology to be bookish full-time. That means she writes (debut novel May ’ 8) and reads.
Find her at:
www.andrealechnerbecker.com (can you believe no one had that domain parked?!)
or any social media with @andreaelbee

 


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