Excerpt from Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Beat the Reaper

A Novel

by Josh Bazell

Beat the Reaper
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2009, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2009, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Print Excerpt


The CT scan of Nicholas LoBrutto's abdomen is inconclusive about whether his cancer has spread or not. (Although, helpfully, he now has a 1 in 1200 chance of contracting some other form of cancer just from the radiation of the scan. He should live so long.) Only surgery will say for sure.

And in the meantime, at six thirty in the morning, I get to go tell him all of this.

Mr. LoBrutto? There's a call for you on line one. He didn't say, but it sounded like the Reaper.

Even for me, it's early to be wanting a drink.

LoBrutto is bedded down in the Anadale Wing, the tiny deluxe ward of the hospital. The Anadale Wing tries to look like a hotel. Its reception area has wood-patterned linoleum and a schmuck in a tuxedo playing a piano.

If it really were a hotel, though, you'd get better healthcare.[8] The Anadale Wing actually does have hot 1960s nurses. I don't mean they're hot now. I mean they were hot in the 1960s, when they first started working at Manhattan Catholic. Now they're mostly bitter and demented.

[8] Think more money can't buy you worse healthcare? Forget the endless studies showing that the U.S. spends twice as much per capita as any other country, with results outside the top thirty-six. Take a look at Michael Jackson.

One of them shouts out to ask where the hell I'm going as I pass the charge desk, but I ignore her on my way to LoBrutto's "suite."

When I open the door I have to admit it's pretty nice for a hospital room. It's got an accordioning wall, now mostly retracted, that divides it into a "living room" - where your family can come eat dinner with you at an octagonal table covered with vinyl that looks easy to clean vomit off of - and a "bedroom" with the actual hospital bed. The whole thing has floor-to-ceiling windows, with a view, at the moment, of the Hudson River just starting to catch light from the east.

It's dazzling. They're the first windows I've looked out since I got to work. And they backlight LoBrutto in his bed, so he recognizes me before I recognize him.

"Holy shit!" he says, trying to crawl away from me up the bed, but held back by all his IV and monitor lines. "It's the Bearclaw! They sent you to kill me!"

Copyright © 2009 by Josh Bazell. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

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