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Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by Southern Living, Elite Daily, and Writer's Digest
A debut novel set against a background of hospital rounds and life-or-death decisions that pulses with humor and empathy and explores the heart's capacity for forgiveness...
Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they're happily married wives and mothers with successful careers--Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years.
As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the center of Zadie's life--both professionally and personally--throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick's unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Meetings Are the Enemy of Progress
Zadie, Present Day, North Carolina
Almost a hundred years before I was born, a man named Samuel Langhorne Clemens-better known to most of us as Mark Twain-said this about the human heart: You can't reason with your heart; it has its own laws, and thumps about things which the intellect scorns. This is entirely true, as far as I'm concerned, and I should know: I've devoted my professional life to the study of hearts, to their intricate, indefatigable machinery, and to their endless propensity to go awry.
We thump for all sorts of reasons. Some are beautiful and life-affirming. Some are misguided, recognizable to everyone but you as catastrophically stupid. We thump for the unsuitable stoner in our college biochem class, with his easy, wicked grin. We thump when somebody we don't like gets their comeuppance. We thump at cruelty and danger.
I've never spent much time revisiting the past, having thought I'd reached a settled spot in life where most of my wildly inappropriate thumping was behind me. Even if I wanted to look backward, I'd slogged through the last two decades unglued by sleep deprivation-first by my medical training and then by an onslaught of babies-so my recall of some of those years has been washed as smooth as sand.
But there are some things I don't want to remember. Emma and I have an unspoken agreement regarding our third year of medical school: we don't bring it up. Maybe even more than me, Emma has good reason to avoid those topics, and if there's one characteristic you'd assign to my closest friend within a nanosecond of meeting her, it's self-discipline.
So I was completely dismantled when Emma texted me she wanted to talk about it.
I cast a sneaky glance at the phone screen in my lap, reading the text three times to be sure. It didnÕt change. The screen dimmed and I fumbled to keep it lit, somehow managing to dislodge the phone from my lap so it hit the wooden floor with a clunk. As I retrieved it and shoved it into my bag, ten pairs of judgmental eyeballs swiveled my way. Who would have the effrontery to read texts during an important meeting? At the head of the table, the speaker, Caroline Cooper (alma mater: Georgia, plus Vanderbilt Law School), gave me a frosty look.
"Zadie? You with us?" Clearly rhetorical. My friend Betsy Packard (Duke University) threw me a surreptitious wink as Caroline forged ahead without a pause for me to answer. "Okay . . . we need to evaluate the metrics so we're optimally positioned for next year. Let's leverage our assets." Caroline flipped her blond pageboy. She was wiry and lean, with the grizzled look of too much tennis. "Yes, Jennifer, did you have a question?"
Jennifer Grosset (B-school, UVA) cleared her throat. "I understand we need to incentivize, but it seems to me the mission-critical thing here is to bring the teachers online. I'm wondering if there's a good strategic alliance there."
Holy smoke. This was what happened when a bunch of highly educated bankers and lawyers took time off to raise their kids. You couldn't get five seconds into a preschool meeting without the need for a bizspeak translator. Same thing in my cardiology practice: the hospital execs and the docs who ran the office were all so deeply steeped in corporate culture that hours could go by without anyone clearly stating anything. Everything was "actionable" and "recontextualized" and "pursuant" to everything else.
In my opinion, meetings are the enemy of progress.
Everyone around the table was nodding about the alliance issue with the teachers. This was politically tricky, though, and a babble of heated voices sprang up. Caroline pitched her voice above the din: "Simmer down, y'all. Let's do a little crowdsourcing."
I shivered. Everyone looked cold, since they were all dressed skimpily and the AC was jacked up to arctic level in deference to the scorching temperature outdoors. Fashion-wise, the women fell into one of two camps. The first group looked like they'd just come from exercising, although they all had neat hair and no one smelled bad. It was considered socially acceptable to wear spandex workout gear around town to morning school meetings and whatnot, as long as you were under a size six, maximum, and had a nice ass.
The second group was beautifully pulled together. They sported gold-plated sandals, chiffon halters, Herms bracelets, skintight jeggings, and metallic aviators pushed onto perfectly coiffed blond manes.
As the discussion veered toward teacher gifts, I felt my phone vibrating in my bag.
Unable to resist, I slid it out. Emma again. Can you stop by before work tmw? Need to talk about Nick.
My heart started to hammer, an anxious, involuntary little tachycardia. We all have a Nick in our pasts: a seemingly ordinary person who, through some mysterious subatomic combination of chemistry and personality, was capable of reaching inside you and exposing some luminescent core you didn't know you possessed. This kind of person could make you greater than you'd have been alone.
But he could also make you terrible.
If someone had told me when I was twenty-four that I'd be witness to many violent deaths that year, I would not have been surprised. I expected it, even desired it, with an anticipation that mirrored my general outlook on life: happy, heedless, and thirsty to learn. But if my omniscient adviser had gone on to tell me that I'd be the cause of one of the deaths, I'd have been dumbfounded. That kind of trauma was inconceivable to me.
I was thirty-six now. Although I was still happy and still possessed a wide-eyed, inquisitive nature, I was much more aware of how every moment had an infinitely complex number of options, and in turn, an infinitely complex number of outcomes. We think it's the big actions that shape us-the choice to pursue medical school over business school, turning down a date with one guy in favor of another, the regrettable decision to have an affair. But in reality, all of those things come about from the unconscious and barely considered actions that shape a life: blowing off studying one night to watch TV. Laughing at a lame joke to make someone feel better. Allowing more eye contact than necessary with a man you knew to be no good. It's the innumerable smaller choices that snowball into larger vectors, or, put another way: it's the choices we make when we ignore our scornful intellects and follow our thumping hearts.
Before I could text Emma back, there was a tap at the conference room door, which opened to reveal the gray head of Margery Blitstein, director of the Weekday Preschool. ÒPardon me for the interruption, ladies,Ó she said. ÒCould I steal you for a minute, Zadie?Ó
"Of course," I said pleasantly, feeling my stomach clench up. This could not be good. Please, please, don't let Delaney have bitten anyone, please.
"I'm afraid Delaney has bitten someone," Margery said as soon as the door had shut behind us. "Again. I'm terribly sorry, Zadie, but you know that our handbook specifies that if the biting is an ongoing problem unresolved by redirection and positive reinforcement, we have to ask the parents of the biter to remove the child. I sincerely hope you understand that we at the preschool feel tremendous love for Delaney, and for all of our children, but I think we've reached the point where we need to try something a little more actionable." (Et tu, Margery?)
"I . . . of course," I said weakly. "I am so sorry. I can't imagine why . . . Ah, who did she bite?"
"I regret to say that it was Sumner Cooper. Again."
"Is there anything going on at home?" asked Margery kindly. "Any changes or potentially upsetting events for Delaney?"
"No! I mean, no, nothing. Everything's fine."
Margery Blitstein stopped walking and patted me on the shoulder. "Zadie," she said, "I've known you since Rowan, your oldest, was a baby-that's what, eight or nine years ago? Parenting four children isn't easy, but I know what a wonderful mother you are. And I know by reputation what a wonderful doctor you are. This is no reflection on you. Sometimes children bite. This will pass."
"Thank you, Margery," I mumbled. "Ah, when you say the child needs to be removed, what kind of time frame are we talking about?"
"Well, I am certainly not suggesting that Delaney has to stay out forever. Why don't you take a few days, a week maybe, and let's think outside the box here about ways to handle this?"
So Delaney was being suspended. From preschool. Wonderful. I mentally reviewed everything I had coming up in the next few days that was incompatible with having a three-year-old biter in tow, which of course was pretty much everything. I worked at my pediatric cardiology practice every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and the rest of my time seemed to be spent juggling the schedules of my four children. In theory, that didn't sound difficult, but in reality, each child added an exponential level of complexity, so that we'd had to plaster an entire wall of the playroom at home with a whiteboard covered in Venn diagrams and annotations about the logistics of everyone's soccer, ballet, field hockey, and guitar lessons. I made a mental note to find help in the mornings: my college-age nanny, Nina, only worked early mornings and late afternoons.
We reached Margery's office. I could hear Delaney giggling inside, probably playing with Margery's assistant, Clare. Sure enough, as we entered, I could see that Delaney was utterly unfazed by her disgrace. "Hi, beloved dear!" she called out in delight as she caught sight of me.
I knelt down. "Delaney," I hissed quietly as Margery murmured something to Clare in the background, "why did you bite Sumner?"
Brightly: "I don't know, Mom."
"Delaney. This is not okay."
"Well . . . maybe I bited her because she is so bad."
I said, "Sumner is not bad. She is a nice little friend."
"She is bad. She breaked up my puzzle even though I telled her not to."
"Okay, we are going to have plenty of time to talk about this at home." Plenty of time. "Let's tell Mrs. Beaufort and Mrs. Blitstein thank you for taking care of you."
"Okay! Fank you, honey dears!"
After apologizing again, we headed for the parking lot. I checked my cell phone: shoot. Missed call from Emma. As I was contemplating returning it, the phone rang: Drew, my husband.
"Hello, beautiful wife," he said.
I was suspicious. "Are you working late tonight?"
A slight pause. "Um, yes," he said. "I'm flying to New York for the day. Can you hold down the fort?"
"I always hold down the fort," I pointed out. "I'm a fort-holding specialist."
He sighed. "I know," he said. "I'm sorry." Another silence, then: "I told the boys I'd hit balls with them after their lesson today."
The quietness of his tone strangled any irritation I might have felt. Drew was a frequent victim of his managing director's whims when it came to last-minute travel for their private equity business. He'd never complain to me about how much he minded canceling a promise to our little sons, but he didn't have to: I knew how to read all his inflections.
"You know what?" I said buoyantly. "I will distract them with my own fearsome tennis skills. Don't worry for a second about it."
His voice recovered. "That would be spectacular," he said, refraining from pointing out that I was more inept on the tennis court than a bilateral arm amputee. "Let's plan on me taking them out this weekend, okay?"
I told him I loved him and hung up. I glanced at my watch. I had an hour and a half, which was the perfect amount of time to knock out the shopping I had to do. I'd bring the vampire with me, and we would have a serious discussion about things.
For once Delaney did not fight as she was buckled into her car seat. She was uncharacteristically quiet as I lit into her, babbling about consequences and limits and privileges. I realized that much of this was over Delaney's head, but maybe venting would calm me down enough to come up with a plan. I raged all the way to the Target parking lot, finally winding down as I unbuckled Delaney.
In a tiny voice: "Are we still in love?"
I looked at Delaney. Her fat cheeks were drooping with guilt and fear, and her great big eyes blinked, dislodging two perfect diamonds of tears. Her little shoulders shook as she fought not to cry. Finally unable to hold it back, she buried her face in her small hands and tried to stifle her sobs.
My irritation melted. A penitent toddler could conquer the hardest heart. I scooped Delaney up, letting my littlest child bury her wet face in my chest. Chubby arms and legs wound themselves around my torso.
"I'm sorry, darling honey. I'm sorry," cried Delaney. "I didn't meant to do it!"
"It's okay, baby," I said, stroking her heaving little back. "We are still in love."
Seven oÕclock in the morning was a ridiculous hour to have a conversation with anyone, at least in my opinion, but it qualified as late morning for Emma. She arrived at work by six most days, but she had negotiated a late start on Tuesdays. She also received two days off every other week, which for her meant an unprecedented amount of leisure time. But then again, Emma has always been a workaholic, so I wasnÕt even sure she appreciated it.
I was an early riser too, but not by choice. A few years back, one of my female partners and I had managed to achieve a utopian ideal never before seen in my old-school, male-dominated cardiology practice: job sharing. During the three days a week I worked, I sometimes started early: at least once a week, I needed to be in the OR myself to perform echocardiograms on the little congenital heart patients. And of course, on my two days "off," I often awoke even earlier to find myself wedged to the edge of the bed by a highly energetic twenty-five-pound intruder who'd crept in during the night. Even though I was amped to find out what Emma had discovered about Nick, I couldn't suppress a yawn.
After my big kids-eight-year-old Rowan and six-year-old twins Eli and Finn-left for early care at school, I made my way to the car, Delaney hopping in sparky little circles around my feeble trudge. "Mom, is this a skipping?"
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Well written, entertaining
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Two best friends both work in the medical field and have been friends for a very long time. With the longevity of the friendship they think they know everything about one another, but they will find out through this book how little they knew and if their friendship can survive the truth. At the heart of this book, it is a book about friendship. The ups and downs that friendships can take and through jobs, relationships, family and so on some friendships can stand the test of time and some get a little battered. This book takes place in Charlotte, NC. And as I lived there right out of college and there are not a lot of books set in this little city, it was so fun to "revisit" it through a fictional book. The little Charlotte moments really made this book a special read for me!
Zadie and Emma have been the best of friends since they attended medical school together. Over the years they have bonded over their life stories including: lost lovers, growing families, and the struggles and triumphs throughout their medical careers. When a surgical mishap puts Emma's career on the line, Zadie decides that she will do everything in her power to help and protect Emma's profession. Out of no where a ghost from their pasts reappears and up-ends the lives that both women have come to know. Zadie begins to second guess everything she knows about her closest friend and must decide whether or not to save not only Emma's career, but also their crumbling friendship. The Queen of Hearts is a fantastic story filled with romance, tragedy, and medical intrigue. The characters are well developed and have great individual personalities that keep the story line rolling. The novel has many interesting plot twists and is filled with suspense and drama.
Loved how realistically the medical training was portrayed. Great storyline.
I would recommend this book to all.
Realistic & engaging novel. I couldn't put it down!
I loved the medical part of this book and find it very realistic. It was hard to put down. I also liked the Charlotte setting after living and practicing medicine for 36 years nearby. Interesting that my two favorite books since I retired are by physicians. Can’t wait till Kimery’s next book comes out.
Unfortunately, this book was not a winner for me. It was so bogged down in the medical jargon that the whole story line seemed to get lost. While I do admire the dedication, the work, and the years it takes to get to become a doctor, I found that this book seemed to make that experience more of a soap opera. I am sure romance and sex play a portion of the medical school and internship experience, however, I do think that it plays a very small part. Zadie and Emma do have a wonderful friendship that is established and I am pretty sure that if the author followed that line better this book overall would have been a much more satisfying read. The character I thought was quite wonderful was the three year old, Delaney. Too bad the book could not have been about her. So sorry to say, this was not the book for me. It seemed shallow and lacking but I do realize that this was the author's fist novel so perhaps her next will be better.
Dollycas’s Thoughts Kimmery Martin takes us into the lives of best friends Zadie Anson and Emma Colley. She alternates between their points of view and the present and the past. Emma, a trauma surgeon, and Zadie, a pediatric cardiologist, have faced grueling schedules to get to where they are in their lives, married with families and successful careers. Then Nick Xenokostas, Dr. X, transfers to North Carolina and turns their lives upside down. That third year of medical school comes back to haunt them and when secrets are revealed it could rip these two best friends apart. I dove right into this story thinking it would be a combination of Grey’s Anatomy and other medical television dramas, but it was so much more. You know immediately the author is a physician by all the details she brings to this story. From medical terms to the struggle medical school, residency and beyond can be. I drank it all in and was riveted by Zadie and Emma’s stories. These characters were very realistic in both the bond they have and the lives they have created for themselves. The underlying drama and tension runs throughout the story with little humorous breaks usually by Zadie’s 3-year-old Delaney. Her “Hi, beloved dear!” always broke through and made me smile. I was following along closely knowing something major had taken place in these women’s lives. Something they had tried to forget about. But when the event was revealed I became totally overwhelmed. Not exactly the same as an event that rocked my life but close enough that I had to stop reading for some time before I could pick it back up again. I still had to skip or just skim a few pages but I had to see how the story ended. I am so glad I did because there was yet another shocking twist that I didn’t see coming. I was moved by this novel. I can’t believe it is the author’s debut. She is an excellent writer, she carries off the switching points of view and times, along with all the medical jargon so well. Her descriptive style puts readers right into each moment. Except for the one point I mentioned above I totally enjoyed the story, and that is on me. If you haven’t dealt with a similar traumatic event, you will absolutely love this story. I am excited by this author and can’t wait to see what she writes next.
The world of medical students is fraught with exhaustion from working too many hours that any human being should endure and with tension from working in an urban Emergency Room rife with life and death scenes. It all requires the utmost tenacity, refined medical skills and the patience and calm of a saint! This is the world of Emma and Zadie, two best friends, who are about to undergo a true test of their solid rock friendship. Add to that their male friends, Dr. Nick Xenokostas and Graham. The time element in this story goes back and forth from past to present and back. The story concerns scenes that make Gray’s Anatomy and other medical TV shows seem tame in comparison. For reality isn’t pared back in a novel. So for the squeamish of heart, you’ve been warned! Blood, guts and gore as well as actions and reactions force the reader to flip the pages and want to stay up way past a normal bedtime. No spoilers here but two particular events score the plot with tension and shock! Exhausted doctors or even doctors handling multiple near-fatality emergency room scenes will make mistakes! Those inadvertent errors can wreck a person’s career and such a danger is posed for Emma upon the death of a little girl. The minutiae of that scene will be repeated in her mind as well as the minds of her physician peers and the family of the little girl. The outcome of this processing will absolutely amaze the reader! Relationships happen out of all this chaos and non-stop turmoil. Some make sense and some take twists and turns that make no sense. But they happen to Emma, Graham, Zadie and Nick and they are life-shattering. How much wrongdoing can one forgive and should one even consider forgiveness? Kimmery Martin is a past medical doctor who knows her professional world well. This is a well-written, intense, caring, brutal and shocking story that is written with sensitivity and care, enabling the reader to enter this world as fully as possible and root for every character, halting judgment and awaiting the evolution of healing and grace on every page. Highly recommended medical fiction!
“We make these implicit bargains with fate all the time, lulling ourselves into a false comfort thinking we can ward off the worst just by acknowledging that it exists.” Kimmery Martin brings out such beautiful emotion and a reality call of what friendship and forgiveness, love and betrayal is all about in her debut novel, The Queen of Hearts. “One moment someone you know was whole, and the next he could be stilled and buried.” The details from the breathing tubes to downtown Charlotte was so unbelievably written that you might as well have been there in person through every page of this book. Zadie and Emma, best friends since their medical school days have become each others pillars during a time that they both had gone through some heartbreak and tragedy. Zadie is a ray of sunshine who everyone wants to know better and Emma is the tall blonde who, at times, seems slightly intimidating but is an enigma herself. Dr. X is the persona of McSteamy and who could resist him? Yet he finds fascination in one particular med student. Graham is the ultimate sweet and silent boyfriend who even has a golden retriever and initially both these men are big parts of their lives during their early years and somehow things just don’t end well. In the end the book wasn’t anything like I expected, it was so much better! The way these women run their lives first as med students then as mothers and wives and how everything unfolds in the end was enough to keep me hooked! This book deserves 5 heart-stopping stars!
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. This. Book! Everything about it gives me heart eyes. As you can see by looking at it, that dust jacket is GORGEOUS! The beautiful illustrations go all the way around to the spine and the back cover. A true piece of art. And the characters! I love them all! Even the villains (they were perfect for this story and the arc of Zadie and Emma). This is probably the five millionth time I’ve said it, but I’m going to say it again: characters are my doorway into a book. And Martin has written some of the most imperfectly perfect characters. (They’re my favorite kind.) I’m trying to come up with a good way to explain why I loved this cast so much. They were realistic. So realistic. I saw parts of myself in so many of them, and found myself relating to their situations, thoughts, reactions, etc. There was drama, there was humor, there was scandal, there were tears, there was heartbreak, there was love. . . my heart exploded, and then my heart exploded again. And Delaney was officially the cutest 3-year-old ever. EVER! Such a honey dear. (Oh my gosh, I can’t even with that kid! You’ll understand when you read it. >wink
Wow, what a brilliant read. The Queen of Hearts is a laugh-out-loud funny story. This novel will touch and warm your heart, but it will also; unfortunately, break it. The Queen of Hearts is an emotional tale of love, friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness. This story kept me captivated from the very first page until the last. If you enjoy watching Grey’s Anatomy, you’re going to love reading The Queen of Hearts. This book takes the reader deep into the hearts and minds of two medical students, Zadie and Emma; their friendship, male companions, and grueling ER experiences. Even though the two women graduate and have successful careers and home lives, all is not well. Dr. X, Zadie’s old boyfriend, unfortunately, shows up after years of being away, and inadvertently unearths a well-hidden secret. His intention had been to soothe and heal past pain, but his presence, had the opposite effect. After an earthquake of exposed hurts and betrayals, the two women’s lives were changed forever. Can they ever forget the pain? Probably, not. Will their hearts ever heal? This book uses a lot of medical jargon, but it is presented in such a manner that it’s easy to understand. I absolutely loved this well-written compelling story. One of my favorite characters was Delany, Zadie’s three-year-old daughter. She’s priceless and oh, so very funny! Don’t miss this insightful, witty, and heartwarming story. I loved it. Thank you, Berkley Publishing and Edelweiss, for my advanced review copy.
The Queen of Hearts is one intense debut from Kimmery Martin! Readers will be instantly pulled into Zadie and Emma's fierce friendship and their turbulent time as medical students in the ER. Switching between past and present in alternating voices, The Queen of Hearts dives into Zadie and Emma's personal and professional lives as it leads them to the moment Dr. X returns. Zadie is a married mother of four and a pediatric cardiologist. Emma is a married mother of one and a trauma surgeon. They have been best friends forever, but there are secrets regarding a traumatic experience in their third year of med school that could threaten their friendship. Dr. X's return brings those memories and guilt surging forward. When all is exposed, both Zadie and Emma learn what's really at stake. This is the kind of story where you know what's coming, but still, it hurts to read it. You may not know how everything is going to go down, or what exactly the secret is, but the story provides a building block of clues to soften the blow that inevitably comes. As imperfect humans, sometimes we want what we shouldn't and desire what others have because of our own insecurities. Kimmery Martin explores such notions and more in this heartbreaking medical drama. It's an insightful and engaging read that once I started reading I had to race to finish! It pulled me in with the promise of an authentic inside look at medical students in hospital rounds and kept me invested in the lives of wholly human characters. The Queen of Hearts is drama filled and really makes you feel for the characters. This is a shining debut you can't miss! *ARC received via First to Read*
My Review of “The Queen of Hearts” by Kimmery Martin Kudos to Kimmery Martin, Author of “The Queen of Hearts” for writing a debut novel that is engaging and entertaining. The Genres for this novel are Fiction and Women’s Fiction. Kimmery Martin weaves the setting her story and her colorful cast of characters into an intriguing novel. The story takes place as several friends are students in medical school and follows these same characters to present day, married with children. The setting is the hospital where life and death decisions are made, and where there are cheers and tears. In this hectic and traumatic setting, we see the emotional relationships among the staff and friends. The author describes her characters as complex and complicated as the circumstances dictate. In present time we see two of the physicians, Zadie, a pediatric cardiologist, and Emma, a trauma surgeon, as they deal with the crisisses in the hospital and in their personal lives. They both are married and have children. Everything seems fine, until suddenly it isn’t. A former Chief of Staff from years ago, Nick has transferred to the hospital in North Carolina, and become part of the staff. Nick holds the key to past dark secrets, and betrayals, that can destroy friendships. He also brings up memories of a tragedy that occurred when all of them were at the hospital. I would highly recommend this captivating and emotional story for those readers that enjoy Women’s Fiction. I received an Advanced Reading Copy from NetGalley for my honest review.