Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Review: Paris in Oakland by Eliza Q. Hemenway

Paris in Oakland


Follow Katherine and her mother, Eliza, as they navigate a medical nightmare seeking treatment for Katherine's Lyme disease. Never imagining an illness could be controversial, Katherine and her mother find themselves caught in the middle of a deeply divided medical community. This proves to be dangerous medicine, leaving young Katherine bedridden, in constant pain and ultimately fighting for her life in the pediatric intensive care unit.

From the pen of documentary filmmaker Eliza Hemenway, Paris in Oakland not only exposes the injustices of Lyme disease, but is also a story of faith and a compelling read for anyone suffering sickness or caught in circumstances beyond their control. If you are seeking inspiration, healing or hope, Paris in Oakland is the book for you.

My Take:
When Katherine began complaining of her legs hurting, strange rashes, and  frequent headaches, no one but her mother seemed to believe there was anything wrong. The varying ailments plaguing Katherine seemed unrelated, but they were puzzling, and none of the medical doctors her mother Eliza brought her to could identify the problem. Katherine and her mother became victims of a deep divide in the medical community on the existence and treatment of Lyme Disease.

As the disease continues to ravage and debilitate Katherine, leaving her bedridden and in constant pain, her mother navigates a frightening and depressing maze of roadblocks, rejections, and denial of service for her condition. Eventually this brings Katherine to the edge of death in an intensive care unit, where doctors are still denying there is a problem.

In this true story, documentary filmmaker Eliza Hemenway exposes the ravages of Lyme Disease, its struggle for recognition and available treatment in the medical community, and the unwavering faith of a mother championing the cause of her daughter against unimaginable odds. It is a chronicle of suffering, of political bureaucracy and abuse, but also a poignant record of hope in a very dark place.

And there are some places where only God can shine light.

This is a non-fiction account, but it reads like a novel, and I need to record the content.

Drug Content:
G - Other than antibiotics and herbal remedies, I don't believe there was anything in the story, not even drinking.    

PG - The ravages of the disease was the most obvious source of violence in this story. Also in view was the abuse of doctors who refused to treat or acknowledge Lyme disease. The violence done throughout most of this book was emotional.

G - Squeaky clean.

Adult Content:
G - Clean.

Christian content:
Throughout, scripture is quoted where appropriate. The mother and her daughter find that their faith community seems to be almost the only support group they can rely on. God's provision and guiding hand is exposed and God is credited for the miracles He performs in arranging circumstances to meet Eliza and Katherine's needs, physical, emotional, and spiritual.

Final analysis:
The story encapsulated in Paris in Oakland needed to be told. Just because symptoms do not lead to a predictable diagnosis, does not mean the symptoms don't exist, that they are psychosomatic. There are many people with debilitating diseases that need a relative, a friend, to champion their cause, and this book would give them and their champions hope.

I have known several people, including a close relative, suffering from Lyme Disease. One friend nearly died from it. It can be very debilitating, and this work gives me a better perspective of the pain, suffering, and risk the disease brought into their lives.

The stakes in this story were very high, the conflict palpable, the struggle fierce. The characters, as this is a true story, were starkly real, their doubt and faith, anger and love, were well-depicted. The story was gripping. That having been said, the pace had moments where it flagged like the failing daughter. The timeline was not chronological and the time jumps a bit disorienting. I found it a bit difficult keeping track of whether I was in the present or past. So, good story, relatable, timely and needed. Four Stars!

About the Author:

Eliza Q. Hemenway

ELIZA HEMENWAY has a M.A. in media studies, and has worked in photography, film and radio, directed the documentary film Uncommon Knowledge, and was the founder and director of the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival. She has served as a judge on numerous film festivals and was an independent-film reviewer for KRCB-FM, National Public Radio. For updates on her current creative non-fiction projects, visit her website at www.hemenwayproductions.com.

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