Monday, January 24, 2011
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: a Novel is a visceral revenge story so cinematic it feels more like a movie, as over-the-top and satisfying as Straw Dogs or Death Wish. Author Caroline T. Anderson has cast rapacious insurance company executives as the bad guys. Out to deny ME/CFS patients their benefits, they're as evil as Nazi monster Christian Szell in the classic what-goes-around-comes-around novel, Marathon Man.
Set on a horse farm in rural Ohio, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome hones in on fearless reporter and leggy babe Alistair McKenney, a single mother of two loyal teenagers. As the book progresses, she morphs into a female Dirty Harry; one of the men in her busy life is described as a dead ringer for Clint Eastwood. When a doctor friend asks McKenney to look into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, she uncovers far more than she or the doctor bargained for.
Cast as a minor villain in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is the Centers for Disease Control. Although the agency’s Dr. William Reeves isn’t mentioned by name, it appears that’s who novelist Anderson may be writing about.
There are weaknesses in the book: Sometimes the information conveyed about ME/CFS hails from an earnest after-school special, and the romantic B plot needs way more time to marinate before it implodes. Yet the brisk-paced novel decidedly works. The author makes the reader feel McKenney's compassion for her bevy of animals, especially her prized horse Blue. The tension in the book keeps building, and the ending will thrill any person touched by ME/CFS: The good guys triumph in a showdown replete with guns, murder and determined townspeople uniting against the evildoers until no one can ignore or malign the disease anymore.
Ah, isn’t it pretty to think so?
Caroline T. Anderson is the pen name for a reporter who suffered from ME/CFS since childhood. After more than 40 years living with the disease, she recovered with a combination of the antiviral famcyclovir and the old-line arthritis/lupus drug methotrexate.
Posted Monday, January 24, 2011