Monday, 29 February 2016

A Gift of Life by Henry Denker, 1989

I was in my late teens when a great-uncle introduced me to the interesting and affecting stories of American author Henry Denker. In those days I read mostly general and bestselling fiction. I remember one of his novels, The Gift of Life, quite well. It involved a cardiologist, whose name I don't recall, who must decide on the most deserving recipient of a critical heart transplant—a rich and powerful man working closely with the US President or an ordinary wage-earner with a family to take care of. One heart, two candidates—which one will it be?

The doctor must overcome external pressure and inner turmoil and make the right decision that will ultimately spell hope for one man's family and doom for the other's.

The Gift of Life is a family drama, as many of Denker's novels are. In fact, it reads like a soap opera with varying shades of emotion, anxiety, suspense, and intrigue, as the doctor's moral dilemma and confusion are compounded by his own problems, of marriage and loneliness.

I don't think Denker has trivialised a serious topic like heart transplant. He has merely woven a human interest story around it. The Gift of Life is not to be compared with the medical thrillers of, say, Robin Cook. It's just a nice, well-written novel.

Henry Denker, who died in 2012 at the age of 99, wrote Broadway plays, radio scripts, television movies, and nearly forty novels. He wrote about ordinary people like boxers, doctors, lawyers, and movie people. The New York Times paid him a fine tribute.

20 comments:

  1. Haven't read anything by Mr. Denker. His works sound pretty serious and deep.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oscar, most of his stories are easy reads and quite enjoyable.

      Delete
  2. Never read any Denker. Not sure I've even heard the name until now. Will have to check it out

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Charles, Denker was a prolific writer of novels and plays. I hope to read some of his books.

      Delete
  3. Not heard of thisauthor before, but I'll probably pass on it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Col, I'm not sure Denker touched crime but then I haven't read all of his books.

      Delete
  4. I used to have a couple of his books on my shelf in the 1980s - may well still be in the loft ... hmmm, thanks as always Prashant, must rummage around this weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sergio, I mostly read him in the eighties and nineties. I don't see his books in secondhand bookshops here.

      Delete
  5. This sounds like an excellent book, Prashant. I've not read Denker myself, I admit. But he sounds worth reading.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Margot, some of his books are definitely worth reading. He had an easy and engaging writing style.

      Delete
  6. Sounds like a very interesting person, Prashant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tracy, I'm sure he was. Denker was first and foremost a playwright. I'd be interested in reading his plays.

      Delete
  7. Charles and Oscar left my combined comment. :) Thank you, Prashant. Enjoy your reviews, sir.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks very much, David. A lot of American authors of the seventies and eighties were popular in India. Denker was certainly one of them.

      Delete
  8. I think this book sounds really interesting, and I feel I may have heard of it at the time. You make me want to read it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moira, Denker touched upon a lot of social issues in his novels. A reader will empathise with the doctor's dilemma in "A Gift of Life."

      Delete
  9. Prashant – I too have never heard of Henry Denker. This book and some of his others listed on Wikipedia sound pretty good. Thanks for the post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elgin, you are welcome. Some of his books like "The Physicians," "The Experiment," "The Scofield Diagnosis," "Horowitz and Mrs. Washington," "Healers," and "Kincaid" are more popular. Of course, I have not read all of them. But I do recall liking his style.

      Delete
  10. Only Denker I've ever come across was a neighbor kid when I was a youngster. He was living with his grandparents, as I recall. It's an unusual name. Maybe "Mikey" had literary blood. As to Henry, I'd not heard of him, but now I'm interested.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mathew, I have not come across the name "Denker" either but that shouldn't be surprising in my case. His narrative style is nice and clean and he told some good stories.

      Delete