Year of the Nurse: A 2020 Pandemic Memoir, by Cassie Alexander

Review copy provided by the author, who is a Twitter-and-sometimes-conventions pal.

Cassie (not her real name) is an ICU nurse in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is a very raw, very immediate memoir of how her year in went, in nursing and in life. It’s got all the blood, all the tears, and all the swearing left in. In another decade someone will write a cool, polished, considered memoir with considered perspective about what it all meant now that we’ve thought it through; in another century, a series of bugcrusher histories of nursing in the pandemic, using primary source. But this is what we have right now.

This is what we need right now.

Because Cassie talks not just about what she experienced but about what she doesn’t know how to do next. How she doesn’t know how to rebuild relationships with those who said they loved her and then turned away from her experience of this last year, trying to save lives in grueling and heart-rending conditions. And we all need to think about that, not just nod sagely about yes, how hard, but really think about that.

If you’ve lost someone in an ICU situation, COVID or not, there are going to be some tough moments, and maybe you’re going to want to time this carefully. If you feel like the previous US presidential administration did a great job with COVID response and you don’t have a lot of patience for blaming it for any choices…frankly I don’t have a lot of patience for that, read this anyway, maybe especially you. And if you’re prone to suicidal ideation and may be triggered by reading about someone else’s suicidal times, okay, yeah, skip this one, because it turns out that trying to save people’s lives while constantly being thwarted by an extremely toxic system is very hard on a human being, it was very hard on this particular human being, and this is not a book that lets you look away from that, but I think Cassie would be the last one who would want to harm you with the things that harmed her.

She says over and over again: she just wants us all to be okay. I believe her. Let’s just…do the best we can, okay? Let’s all do the best we can.

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