The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story

Christie Watson. Crown/Duggan, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5247-6163-9
Novelist Watson (Where Women Are Kings) portrays the constant chaos and deep sense of purpose she experienced while training to be and working as a nurse in England in this rewarding memoir. “Each hospital is a country, unique and separate, with an infrastructure and philosophy different from the next one,” yet she shows the “language of kindness” to be a universal one among nurses. In descriptions of working on the mental health ward for the first time, of first assisting at a birth, and of carefully extricating a premature infant “from his bed of wires” to cuddle with his mother, whom he stares at “for the longest time without blinking.” There’s not a linear personal story to this book. It zigzags through the different wards she works in and the types of nursing she does, touches on nursing theorists, and moves back and forth in time as she passes through different life phases. The result is less conventional memoir than appreciation of a profession. “Somewhere between science and art,” nursing “is all about the smallest details, and understanding how they make the biggest difference,” Watson observes. Her recollections of inhabiting this in-between space are revealing and will be especially resonant for people who work in health care. (May)

Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled the author's first name and incorrectly stated the narrative took place in the 1990s.

Reviewed on: 03/26/2018
Release date: 05/08/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-385-69026-3
Show other formats
Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
Discover what to read next