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.