Bypass: A Memoir by Joseph A. Amato

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This inquiry into matters of heart, conducted under the shadows of pending surgery, awakens themes of boyhood, education, and marriage and prompt questions about loyalty to a deceased father, connections with immigrant grandparents, loss and rediscovery of faith, and solitude versus community. A medical narrative, the book also chronicles a span of contemporary American life. Throughout Amato's account, the consistent reminder of his upcoming bypass invites readers to reflect on their own lives and selves. This ...

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Overview

This inquiry into matters of heart, conducted under the shadows of pending surgery, awakens themes of boyhood, education, and marriage and prompt questions about loyalty to a deceased father, connections with immigrant grandparents, loss and rediscovery of faith, and solitude versus community. A medical narrative, the book also chronicles a span of contemporary American life. Throughout Amato's account, the consistent reminder of his upcoming bypass invites readers to reflect on their own lives and selves. This is an intelligent and witty guide to an immensely common operation that nevertheless for each patient constitutes a unique experience-a veritable rite of passage.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In anticipation of a surgical procedure that would cut his chest wide open and stop the flow of blood to his heart, Amato immersed himself in an introspective farewell to his past, "as if I were lightening myself for a great crossing." A middle-aged professor of history (Victims and Values: A History and Philosophy of Suffering), he attempted to avoid the surgery in 1988 by adhering to a strict program of diet and exercise until an angiogram detected increased arterial blockage five years later. In reflective prose laden with minutiae, he recounts a trip to his boyhood home in Detroit when he visited his father's grave, but also expresses feelings of regret that "our hearts had not drawn closer together." A reunion with a close friend from his teens prompts memories of a shared obsession with golf. Amato also made a pilgrimage to Ann Arbor, where during his college days a spiritual epiphany returned him to the Roman Catholic faith of his working-class Italian-American childhood. In competent prose with occasional lyrical strokes, he vividly recalls the early years of his marriage to his wife, Cathy, when they acted upon a joint commitment to the ideals of the Catholic Worker Movement in the late 1960s and '70s. Although Amato includes many details about his ultimately successful surgery and recuperation, his searching memoir is primarily rumination on life by a man who is keenly aware of his proximity to death. (Feb.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
When Amato (history, Southwestern State Univ.) elected to undergo bypass surgery to alleviate his cardiac symptoms and problems, it set loose a torrent of reflections on his life. Thus, the upcoming heart surgery brings forth thoughts on his boyhood, lineage and kinship, education, marriage, spiritual matters, liberal politics--and, ever present, the surgery and the possibility of death. Although Amato comes across as a decent fellow, his introspection and reflections are somewhat disorganized and random, and he never gets down to the real medical problem. When you turn the final page, you are not sure what Amato really wanted to convey or why he thought he should try. For larger collections; libraries seeking more compelling patient stories should try David Biro's One Hundred Days (LJ 12/99).--James Swanton, Harlem Hosp. Lib., New York Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Amato uses his life-threatening heart condition and the surgery meant to correct it as a springboard to a larger evaluation of his life, from his youth in the American Midwest to his life as a history professor at Southwest State University. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
John Flesher
Cloaked in mystery and wonder when first performed three decades ago, the coronary bypass has become a routine medical procedure-yet it still amounts to a chillingly close encounter with death. Surgeons slice and hack their way through the patient's skin and breastbone, literally stop the heart and pack it in ice while grafting leg veins to circumvent clogged blood vessels. A sobering prospect for anyone, but for Amato-an athletic, politically active, deep-thinking history professor in his mid-fifties-it inspires a personal journey of reflection and remembrance.
Headstrong and accustomed to being in control, Amato initially spurns his doctor's advice to undergo a bypass, opting instead for a regimen of exercise, prayer and dietary change that he hopes will reverse his potentially fatal arterial blockages. Its failure is but one of his humbling experiences as surgery draws nearer. Drawing little comfort from assurances that his prospects are excellent for surviving the operation and resuming his busy life, he travels from Minnesota to his boyhood home of Detroit, where he visits the graves of his father and grandparents and bids "provisional farewells" to people and places he has long known. Despite his misgivings, the surgery goes without a hitch, and Amato emerges physically and spiritually healthier, with a keener sense of what matters most in life.
Bypass is simultaneously a straightforward account of a medical procedure as seen through one patient's eyes and, as the subtitle makes clear, a personal memoir. Amato writes at length of his parents and grandparents, of childhood peccadilloes, of his passion for golf, courting his wife, helping establish the history program at a new college on the Minnesota prairie. Of particular interest is his deep religious faith, and how the prospect of dying young forces this proud intellectual to surrender his fate to the God of his peasant ancestors.
To read this book is to become intimately acquainted with Amato, warts and all. One marvels at the breadth of his knowledge and the richness of his life's experiences; shares his fear of the unknown and his zest for life; and frowns at his impatience and bouts of self-centeredness. Yet one comes away with a sense that, ever the student, he has learned his lessons well and passed his toughest test. Outwardly, he concludes, bypass left a scar on his chest. "Inwardly, it set death's skull on the desk of my mind. It told me time was preciously scarce, and I must work hard. There is only so much time to achieve one's heart's desires."
Foreword
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557531766
  • Publisher: Purdue University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2000
  • Pages: 227
  • Product dimensions: 5.51 (w) x 7.72 (h) x 0.91 (d)

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