Review – The Last Rose of Summer
Susan Keefe, The Columbia Review
‘Inspired by a true story,’ now isn’t that phrase something which immediately attracts your attention? What’s more this novel is written under a pseudonym by a physician. However, this story is a work of fiction, of that we are assured…
It follows the life and discoveries of the protagonist, Mary Austin. She is a dedicated young woman, inspired by a man who she admits she “loves with all her heart,” Dr. Daniel Taylor. Daniel was world famous for his work in paediatrics, was a passionate believer in advancing scientific knowledge, and he was her mentor. He was for decades the head of Whitehead College of Medicine and its affiliated children’s hospital.
However, it was whilst she was working as a pre-med student at the Cleary University, that Mary decided she wanted to study the effects of trace component of ginseng in cancer. Then as she studies more her “crazy idea” about plant saponins and cancer epigenetics, it became apparent that this young cancer researcher had discovered a possibly lifesaving new drug.
Little did she know, that as she diligently pursued her all-consuming study, which combined eastern and western medicine, that not only would it change her life, but it would also make her the target of jealousy, corruption, and sabotage. She was soon to learn the extent to which the powers to be will go, when they want something supressed.
Nothing was more important to her than her work in battling cancer, her passion was to exclusion of all else, including a social life and her relationships. She suffered sexual harassment and even death threats, however despite all this she was resolute. Encouraged by her mentor, who even after accepting her as a paediatric resident, believed her work was so important that he allowed her temporary leave of residency training in order to pursue it. However, sadly, he was to learn that he had terminal pancreatic cancer. Mary is devastated, would her drug be able to save him?
Throughout this compelling novel the reader is transported into another life, the life of a young woman passionate about people, and saving lives. Through her eyes we get a fly-on-the-wall glimpse into what it is like being a med student, working in large hospitals and laboratories, and we also get a tiny inclining into the internal ‘politics’ which abound in the medical profession at all levels.
In summary: Passionately written, this is a story which as to be told. It is fiction, the author assures us of this, however, as I read it I wonder, what if a young student made such a discovery, would we all get to know about it, or would it be supressed?