Columns, Prints, Pages, and Pagers
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A Story from the Heart: Review of “When Crickets Cry”


In his fictional novel “When Crickets Cry,” Charles Martin, who is not a medical doctor, takes on a difficult task: to write convincingly in first person as a medical doctor. This is an understandably difficult task, but the author is thorough in his discussion of the medical aspects of the story. He also convincingly creates a multi-dimensional character who is much more than a doctor, and it is the author’s proficiency at characterization that makes the novel a fascinating and compelling read.

The novel centers on Dr. Reese, a cardiothoracic surgeon living in Georgia. The novel contains several concurrent storylines, with the primary action occurring intermittently with the doctor’s childhood. Like many good stories, there is a slow reveal of information, so that the reader does not get the whole picture until the end of the novel. This creates considerable suspense to keep the reader hooked.

One of the important features of this book is that it highlights the complexities of being a medical doctor when those close to you are sick. Although most physicians will not generally face this difficulty to the degree that Dr. Reese does, it is an important aspect of medicine to consider. Classes in medical ethics and physician conduct often pose questions for medical students to think through in the abstract. Questions such as: Should physicians treat family members? Where do we draw the line between knowing our patients well enough to give good care and too well to give good care? How do we cope with our own illnesses or our family’s illnesses? How can we learn to let go of control?, are certainly not uncommon, and have been explored by doctors for centuries. Anyone who has been through situations like this will understand that while it is one thing to discuss this in the abstract, it is entirely different when considering a real case. Although this novel is fictional, the story offers an interesting look into how humans – especially doctors – deal with illness in those closest to them.

The novel explores what is special about medicine, and serves as an excellent reminder of why medicine is an art as much as a science. Because the author is not a doctor, the “medical” parts of “When Crickets Cry” are not laden with technical detail. Instead, Martin focuses on the beauty and mystery of healing, and freely explores how there is much more to someone’s healing than a simple diagnosis of his or her disease and a prescription or procedure. Healing is a holistic process, and so doctors must use holistic methods in working with patients. This novel is an excellent example of how complex this goal can be – especially when working with patients who are close to us and when working with children. The book also touches on the difficult process of healing that doctors often need, too. Physician healing is an incredibly important topic that often goes unaddressed, and the candor with which Martin presents this topic is refreshing for doctors-in-training.

Medical students will find this book valuable as a reminder of why they chose medicine. Many students, especially those interested in surgery, will relate to Dr. Reese’s childhood and his strong sense of purpose in choosing medicine. “When Crickets Cry” contains significant spiritual themes as well, especially as they relate to the variety of patient backgrounds, which medical students will surely find helpful as they meet new patients. Most importantly, this novel is a wonderful story and easy to read — I highly recommend it to all future doctors.


Prints, Pages, and Pagers

Prints, Pages, and Pagers aims to look closely at the lives of medical students and doctors, real or fiction, whose lives and experiences are told in novels, short stories, poetry, or any kind of writing. These book reviews are an opportunity for medical students to learn from the many fascinating stories produced by the field of medicine, and maybe to read something other than a textbook.

Brent Schnipke Brent Schnipke (18 Posts)

Medical Student Editor, Writer-in-Training and Columnist

Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University


Brent Schnipke is a third year medical student at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, OH. He is a 2014 graduate of Mount Vernon Nazarene University with a degree in Biology. His professional interests include writing, medical humanities, and higher education. When he’s not studying, he can be found reading at a local coffee shop, training for his next race, or planning an adventure with his wife. Brent is also active on social media and can be reached on Twitter and Instagram @brentschnipke.

Prints, Pages, and Pagers

Prints, Pages, and Pagers aims to look closely at the lives of medical students and doctors, real or fiction, whose lives and experiences are told in novels, short stories, poetry, or any kind of writing. These book reviews are an opportunity for medical students to learn from the many fascinating stories produced by the field of medicine, and maybe to read something other than a textbook.