The "Spirit of the Heart" is written by a renowned heart surgeon, Dr. Ismael N. Nuño. The book is a collection of his personal insights interspersed with specific personal and medical examples of people and patients who have inspired him the most. The themes captured in this book illustrate existential issues that we all grapple with such as our quest for meaning, our attempts to make sense of personal losses and tragic deaths, and of confronting one's mortality and spirituality.
I must admit that after reading the Introduction section of the "Spirit of the Heart", I was hooked and knew that I would finish reading it till the end in one sitting. The author's writing style was clean, simple, straightforward and efficient. Like a skillful surgeon (that he was/is), Dr. Nuño effectively brought me to the operating table as he shared specific surgical procedures he had to perform to save the lives of his patients. Because his personal experiences and that of his patients' were powerful enough to enthrall the readers, for the most part, Dr. Nuño had the wisdom to provide restraint in his writing and allowed the characters in the story to take center stage. There were a couple of instances though wherein the author tended to be tangential and circumstantial as he would occasionally get sidetracked with detailed (and at times redundant) explanations of certain challenging medical procedures he had to perform. I found that these took away some of the focus from the story or personal insight that he wanted to impart or illustrate.
Honestly, this book might not be for the faint of heart (no pun intended). For some, they might find the stories to be potentially very depressing as the author spoke of his own personal losses - deaths of his daughter and parents as well as some of his patients. There were also graphic descriptions of surgical procedures which made me squirm at times. While reading the book, I also wondered if this was the author's attempt on reconciliation (with his past, the personal and career decisions he has made) and of his healing and spiritual journey. Being a well-respected and very skillful surgeon, he has faced death countless of times - as evidenced by just a sample of stories illustrated in his book. I can only imagine how that would be like - to be surrounded by pain (physical and emotional) on a daily basis, the strength and humility it took for him to acknowledge what he can and can't do as heart surgeon, and the faith he needed to constantly call on God, not including the courage he had to muster as he faced the loved ones of the patients he lost on the operating table.
Despite that fact that I had to take short breaks in between chapters to process my own mixed emotional response while reading this book (sadness, hope, joy etc.) and talk to my best friend about it, I really admire Dr. Nuño's honesty and openness in sharing his innermost thoughts and feelings about his career, family and his patients. I can truly say that reading the book has helped me to have a better perspective of my current life situation. Aside from it being educational because I learned about certain medical heart conditions and surgical procedures (being the geek that I am), the stories shared by Dr. Nuño reminded me to be more grateful and appreciative of life in general and of my own life. I was inspired as well to hear about his share of personal and professional triumphs, particularly with patients whose surgeries were successful and had gotten a new lease in life. To be instrumental in giving life to another human being is truly a wonderful experience and gift that Dr. Nuño shared to his readers.
Overall, although I do not think Dr. Nuño is an extraordinary writer, I do think he is an extremely skillful and gifted surgeon and an effective story-teller. Furthermore, his stories are so moving and powerful that you will want to read his book from cover to cover.
Disclosure: Rebecca from the The Cadence Group provided me with a free copy of the book to review but I did not receive any monetary compensation. The review is based on my personal honest opinion and does not reflect the author's views.