Community Reading Project
2014-2015 Five Days at Memorial
Announcing the Tenth Annual Community Read:
Five Days at Memorial, by Sheri Fink
In the tradition of the best investigative journalism, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs 5 days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and to maintain life amid chaos.
After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several health professionals faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths.
Five Days at Memorial, the culmination of six years of reporting, unspools the mystery of what happened in those days, bringing the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing.
In a voice at once involving and fair, masterful and intimate, Fink exposes the hidden dilemmas of end-of-life care and reveals just how ill-prepared we are in America for the impact of large-scale disasters—and how we can do better. A remarkable book, engrossing from start to finish, Five Days at Memorial radically transforms your understanding of human nature in crisis.
"What we have here is masterly reporting and the glow of fine writing.”
—Sherwin B. Nuland, New York Times Book Review
"A triumph of journalism...Fink re-creates this world with mastery and sensitivity, revealing the full humanity of each character. Unlike post-storm commentary that jumped to black and white conclusions, painting the doctors as heroes or villains, Fink’s narrative wades through the muck and finds only real people making tough choices under circumstances the rest of us, if we’re lucky, will never experience."
“Dr. Fink brings a shimmering intelligence to its many narrative cul-de-sacs, which consider medical, legal and ethical issues…. By reporting the depth of those gruesome hours in Memorial before the helicopters came, and giving weight to medical ethics as grounded in the law, Sheri Fink has written an unforgettable story. Five Days at Memorial is social reporting of the first rank.”
—Jason Berry, New York Times
"Five Days at Memorial is Sheri Fink’s elaborately researched chronicle of life, death, and the choices in between at a New Orleans hospital immediately following Hurricane Katrina. What’s important, it slowly emerges, is that despite Fink’s painstaking re-creation based on five hundred interviews and mountains of documents—we weren’t there. We cannot know. Fink, under the guise of third-person journalistic objectivity, drives us towards a kind of uncertainty so great that it’s revelatory. This isn’t just a policy brief ornamented with characters. It is, like all great journalism, a document unto itself, an artifact of what we thought about “life and death” issues in the early twenty-first century."
—Jeff Sharlet, Bookforum
"It’s a marvel of journalistic effort that brings an objective and sympathetic eye to the suffering and tough decisions at Memorial Medical Center."
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction
New York Times Bestseller
A New York Times Book Review Best Book of 2013 Top Five Nonfiction
Entertainment Weekly's #1 Nonfiction Book of 2013
Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
A Time Magazine Best Nonfiction Book of 2013
An NPR’s 2013 Great Reads book
A Chicago Tribune Top Ten Book of 2013
A Seattle Times Best Book of the Year
MSNBC's Morning Joe Book Club Inaugural Pick
Wall Street Journal Bestseller
A Christian Science Monitor Best of the Year Book
#1 New York Times/Science Bestseller list
Shortlisted for the Ridenhour Book Prize
ALA 2014 Notable Book
Library Journal Top Ten Book of 2013
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013
A Hudson Bookseller Best Book of 2013
Kansas City Star Best Book of 2013
A Shelf Awareness Best Book of 2013
A Bookish Editor's Pick for Best of the Year
Two months on the New York Times/ Science Bestseller list
New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
A Nieman Reports Top Ten Investigative Journalism Book of 2013
"A" – Entertainment Weekly
#1 September Book – Christian Science Monitor
One of USA Today's "Coolest Books" for Fall
One of People magazine's "Great Reads" in New Nonfiction
Page last modified March 26, 2014