Best Intentions by Ellen Raskin

A mother of three children. A wife of a successful husband. The daughter of a politician. Marti Trailor feels something is missing. She was a social worker in another life and want to return to this rewarding work. A chance meeting at a party leads to a job, and soon she is working along side her husband, an obstetrician at Richmond Hospital. Marti becomes involved in Tonya Maines’s case, a pregnant mother whom she forges a bond. Marti becomes personally involved in Tonya’s life, even being her birthing coach and godmother to the unborn child. At the delivery, something goes wrong, Marti witnesses an action and Tonya gives birth to a baby with hypoxic brain injury. A grave error by the obstetrical resident. But it is Marti who is charged and forced in the legal playground of criminal justice system.

What a great reading experience. Dramatic. Captivating. And witty. Erika Raskin weaves a clever plot in a well-written narrative that is fluid and easy to read. The book starts off with Marti meeting her lawyer for the first time. He asks her to tell him what happened from the begining. Marti begins to recounts her story inbetween a snipits of of legal preparations. The narrative starts with a promise. “…the case that has it all. Malpractice. Adultery. Class. Race.” The escalation of the story is slow but the when the tension peaks about the halfway mark, it catapults into a courtroom drama. The ending will leave you satisfied.

Best Intentions has well developed character portrayals. Raskin’s portray of Marti’s is well rounded and becomes more endearing as the story unfolds. We see Marti as a devoted mother, daughter of a congressman and a brilliant social worker with a focus on aiding single mothers. At times, Marti oversteps her boundries in her job, leading to colliding roles. Her clients are unique and colorful, and Marti handles each one with grace. Marti’s children, Poppy, Nina, and Sam, each have a distinct personality and together the sibling interactions give the reader a glimpse into childhood. Nina, is especially striking in the way she mothers her younger brother and sister. Elliot, the obstetrician and husband, is self-absorbed and spends his waking moments in the hospital. Slowly into the book we gaze into the eyes of a spouse that is slightly shy of abusive and repelling. The interactions between Marti and Elliot are tense and we see a marraige fracturing apart. Marti’s friend Colby, a constant source of entertainment and support, was a significant character in the novel. As a reporter, the interesting story she was working on wove seamlessly in and out of the narrative.

The legal drama seemed to take a secondary role in this character driven story which was slightly disappointing. I wanted to bear witness to the medical system being tried in a courtroom, with a plethora of testimony upon expert witnesses. This was a personal draw for my choosing to read this novel. But Raskin excells in describing the pulse of a University teaching hospital.

Being exposed for multiple years to obstetrics, hospital institutions, and brushes with legal upheavals, I found this novel to be extremely accurate and credible. Frequently, when an author writes about the medical profession, details are miscontruded. However Raskin gets this right, especially the handling of the obstetrical emergency of prolapse cord. Overworked healthcare professionals and drug abuse are also undercurrents in the story. The nuances of the obstetical side of medicine, from the job, the roles, the quandries to the personal dispositions gives the reader a vivid gaze into the hospital.

Overall, an excellent read that held my interest until the very end. I woud highly recommend Best Intentions.

Thank you, NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Erica Raskin for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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