The Hys­terec­to­my Waltz

  • Review
By – August 28, 2013

In The Hys­terec­to­my Waltz Mer­rill Joan Ger­ber details the life expe­ri­ences of an unnamed nar­ra­tor who dis­cov­ers that what she believed to be a fourth preg­nan­cy is rather, a tumor. The nar­ra­tor, orig­i­nal­ly from Brook­lyn, seems to have moved her­self and every­one she knows, includ­ing an ancient aunt she calls the Old Sage,” to Los Ange­les. She has three love­ly teenage daugh­ters, a lov­ing hus­band, and a com­pla­cent life in Bev­er­ly Hills, despite the night­ly bark­ing of her witchy neighbor’s dog. When struck by her med­ical dis­as­ter, the nar­ra­tor con­tacts an old friend, now a hot shot doc­tor, whose broth­er is a hot shot sur­geon, both orig­i­nal­ly from Brook­lyn. Helen, the old friend, rec­om­mends her broth­er for the surgery , as she says, We like to keep the prof­its in the fam­i­ly.” By the way, the nar­ra­tor does uti­lize the witchy woman’s voodoo skills in ulti­mate­ly tak­ing revenge on her heart­less surgeon.

The pre­vi­ous sen­tence sum­ma­rizes the novel’s atti­tude toward the med­ical com­mu­ni­ty: uncar­ing, cru­el, and mon­ey-hun­gry. As the nar­ra­tor runs the gamut of fear of life with­out a uterus — will she be unat­trac­tive, has her abil­i­ty to enjoy sex been cut out of her— all the doc­tors with whom she comes in con­tact are almost mon­strous in their indif­fer­ence, with the excep­tion of a res­i­dent called Dr. Nick­elodeon, who enjoys mak­ing obscene phone calls.

The anonymi­ty of the nar­ra­tor clear­ly serves Gerber’s intent to make her a metaphor for all women who were and are being mis­treat­ed by the med­ical pro­fes­sion, par­tic­u­lar­ly in gyne­co­log­i­cal mat­ters, where their fem­i­nin­i­ty is at stake. The nar­ra­tor is angry, fun­ny, intu­itive, but most­ly angry. She is emphat­ic about get­ting her feel­ings across to those women who waltzed this waltz before her and will after.

It is iron­ic that the nar­ra­tor has an epiphany in a small town near Las Vegas while stand­ing in front of slot machines, sur­round­ed by hun­dreds of oth­er humans who seem will­ing to take the chance; she bursts into L’Chaim” and decides that life is worth liv­ing even with­out her miss­ing body parts.

Suri Boiangiu recent­ly semi-retired from the posi­tion of assis­tant prin­ci­pal at an all-girls high school. She has either been an admin­is­tra­tor or taught Eng­lish at Yeshiv­ah of Flat­bush and Magen David High School. She loves read­ing mod­ern fic­tion, or any fic­tion, and Ama­zon knows her by her first name.

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