BY ROMAN GLADSTONE
Filed Under: Literary, Humor
As the title of Merrill Joan Gerber’s new novel suggests, The Hysterectomy Waltz is a satirical, dark comedy in the tradition of Joseph Heller. Think Catch-22, but instead of young men trapped by the absurdity of war and the military machine, this is women caught up in the clutches of the gynecological profession, at the mercy of paradoxical medical rules and regulations over which they have no control. Or rather, one woman, the unnamed protagonist and narrator of the novel.
The story basically takes place in three parts: the discovery of a tumor on the narrator’s ovary during a visit to her cocky male gynecologist, to whom she has gone thinking she may be pregnant again; her stay in the hospital with all its maddening absurdities and bureaucratic blunders and rigid procedures; and finally the post-surgery coming to terms with her new condition, her new conception of herself as a woman (mother, lover, sensual being).
The narrator has three teenage daughters at the time that she goes to her gynecologist to confirm her pregnancy, and hopes this time she’ll have a son. But her hopes are dashed when the doctor breaks the news to her that she has a tumor and spells out her options in cold-blooded fashion. Like all of her male doctors before him, pushing and prodding her intimate parts, he is insensitive and has no respect for her privacy. So Gerber’s protagonist consults a female doctor, Laura, who lives in Beverly Hills. Thirty years before, Laura had been her best friend, in Brooklyn. Laura turns out to be only marginally better than the guys. She’s part of the medical establishment, after all, that seems to be a pretty narcissistic bunch. Continue reading