The Neurology of Angels
By Krista Tibbs
Friction Publishing Company 2009
Reviewed by Randall Radic
The title of Krista Tibbs’ book hints at what’s to come. Neurology of Angels? Who says angels have a nervous system? Surely someone somewhere does. And just as surely someone else will say angels don’t have nervous systems. Someone else, inevitably, will say angels don’t even exist. So first, the question of the very existence of angelic beings must be resolved. Once that’s done, then a discussion of venation may occur. The situation is a mess because both objectivity and subjectivity enter into it. Or as Woody Allen would say: “Being right just pisses people off. Why? Because even though you’re right you’re still wrong, because nobody agrees with you.”
The Neurology of Angels is a novel about the pharmaceutical industry. The gist of the story is this: a group of well-meaning people all want the same thing – to cure a deadly disease. Only they can’t agree on the best and most efficient way to achieve their common goal. Which means it is a heart-rending story, because people watch helplessly as their loved ones die.
The main character’s name is Galen. No, not Galen of Pergamum, who was a physician in ancient Rome and probably the greatest medical researcher in that period of history. This Galen is Galen Douglas, who is also a medical researcher. He’s trying to find a cure for a horrible disease called Transient Forebrain Ischemia (TFI), which recently took the life of his fiancée. As the story opens, Galen discovers a drug that will cure TFI. This is the point where the discussion surrounding the existence of angels comes into play. Nothing is ever simple.
Before anyone can be cured, three great tasks akin to the Labors of Hercules must first take place. Money has to be raised to develop the drug, clinical trials of the drug have to occur, and the regulatory guidelines of the FDA have to be satisfied. As these tasks are undertaken, the personalities and lives of three families crash into one another. This crash of lives gives the story its humanity, which is what makes the book interesting. Each family wants to cure TFI and save lives. Each family has its own agenda. Each family believes their way is the right way.
Krista Tibbs tells the story well. She could have easily descended into concise, arid prose calculated to bore the reader to death. She doesn’t. Instead, she weaves a tender tale of persons who are frail and vulnerable – like most of humanity – yet who aspire to do what is right. And – like most of humanity – their convictions create susceptibilities. One of which is the difficulty of breaking the habits of a lifetime. On the other hand, the story has all the necessary ingredients required to repair these susceptibilities: love, kindness, faith, and joy. Combining these virtues could provide an answer.
The author doesn’t pander to one any one of the clashing viewpoints in the story. She does, however, make it clear that while the three great tasks of bringing a miracle drug to market occur people are dying. They are dying because of three basic circumstances: the exquisitely subtle civilization in which they live, the security provided by over-evaluation, and the fact that bureaucracies cannot conceive of any other recourse.
All that being said, it is not a depressing or sad book, offering no hope. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is a persistently optimistic book. Which means it has a moral. The moral to the story is this: have faith, wait, and hope. Which is what angels do, right?