September 22, 2011

Review: Weekends at Bellevue

By Morgan Cordary–

“Weekends at Bellevue: Nine Years on the Night Shift at the Psych ER” chronicles author Dr. Julie Howard’s time spent in charge of the psychiatric ward in New York City’s Bellevue Hospital. Dr. Howard describes her most memorable patients and moments at the hospital, splitting the book into short chapters which makes it particularly hard to put down. With her accounts ranging from terrifying to hilarious, one can tell Howard is an expert storyteller and never fails to create a moving memoir.

“Weekends at Bellevue’s” very first chapter catches the reader off guard when a naked sunburnt man, who is brought into the ER, was found barking on his hands and knees in Times Square. To this Julie Howard replies “There is a common saying among toxicologists that ‘naked running is PCP until proven otherwise’”. This chapter not only prepares the reader for the increasingly shocking drug-related scenarios but also for Dr. Howard’s unmistakable wittiness even in the most inappropriate situations.

Howard is able to paint a compelling portrait of the relationship between psychiatrist and patient, showing specifically how nine years in the ER came to affect her personal life as well as her feelings about the mind and the practice of psychiatry. “Weekends at Bellevue” not only shows an in-depth look at psychiatrist-patient relations and the severity of mental illness, it transports the reader into the ER in the middle of the night where everything is seemingly out of control. Julie Howard acts as a guide to the madness, armed with a very likable dark wit.

From disturbed serial killers to recreational drug use gone wrong, “Weekends at Bellevue” is quite a page-turner and knows how to keep the reader saying “just one more chapter…” Dr. Julie Howard’s descriptions and commentary are perfect for such an environment, presenting an inspiring novel in a very innovative fashion.

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Photo: Courtesy Random House, Inc.

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