Monday, February 21, 2011

Along the River: A Chinese Cinderella Novel


In this compelling fantasy-adventure novel set in China during 1942, novelist and  doctor Adeline Yen Mah brings us the fictional character, Dr. Richard Allen, an American and combination neurosurgeon and psychiatrist. The story portrays something timeless about the relationship between doctors and other healers, and their patients.

Dr. Allen treats the 12 year-old protagonist, CC, after she falls, suffers a brain injury, and is in a coma. She awakens, but is not completely well. Reminiscent of Dr. Freud, Dr. Allen offers hypnotherapy for her headache and memory loss and she accepts. Through this unusual therapy and psychic journey, CC goes back in time to a life she lived hundreds of years ago, during the Song Dynasty.

Adeline Yen Mah has endowed Dr. Allen with a skillful and comforting bedside manner, which serves his patient and the story.

For example, after the accident, injured CC and her young friend, David, are transported by rickshaw to the hospital where they meet charming Dr. Allen. He speaks fluent Chinese, is kind to David and says, "Hello, Kid! Are you with the unconscious girl . . . ?" When David offers to fetch CC's grandmother, Dr. Allen says, " . . . By all means, . . . Be as quick as you can!" He goes on to reassure the child. "Try not to worry. People's heads are my specialty. Your friend is in good hands. . . ."

The doctor's agreeable demeanor furthers the plot, which depends on CC trusting him enough to consent to hypnotherapy and the plumbing of her unconscious. The interaction between the doctor and CC demonstrates that if a patient likes and trusts a doctor, she is more likely to do what is recommended. With her acceptance of hypnosis, the story about her fascinating past, can be revealed to the reader.

Thus, in this older middle grade novel, we are shown how doctors best elicit the cooperation of patients.

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