- Grady Baby – A Years in the Life of Atlanta’s Grady Hospital
- by Jerry Gentry
- Publisher – University of Mississippi Press
- Copyright – 1999
- 346 pages
Rating – 4/10
Review – “We should make no promises. We should say we’ll do our best but can’t guarantee it. If they demand it, they can go somewhere else and pay for it” (p. 123).
So says a doctor @ Atlanta’s Grady Hospital when a woman requests a female doctor. That statement might also serve as Grady’s motto. In the Atlanta area, a “Grady Baby” is someone who was born there, and – given Grady’s role of serving the poor – the term connotes a person born into challenging circumstances.
Around 1994-1995, journalist Jerry Gentry spent a year at Grady’s maternity ward. In his book Grady Baby, he tells about the patients and staff he met. The “ingredients” are there for a terrific book, but Gentry doesn’t pull it off.
The Human Condition
When Grady Baby works, it’s because of the people Gentry meets. Grady Baby shows us life and parenthood as they are, not as we might prefer them to be.
Some of the stories are almost unbelievable. Among many others, readers will meet –
- a 21-year-old stripper who is HIV positive and pregnant for the eleventh time.
- a Brazilian woman who is pregnant by the wastrel son of one of Atlanta’s wealthiest families. He provides no support (emotional or financial), but the woman continues an on-again, off-again relationship with him – and with several other men.
With all of the great stories, how does Grady Baby miss? In one word, the problem is organization. Gentry never centers the book. If he’d focused on the stories of the mothers of the “Grady babies,” the book might have been a success.
Unfortunately, Gentry flits from topic to topic, which makes the reader’s head spin just trying to keep up. Grady Baby contains lengthy digressions, including a physician’s assistant’s medical missionary trip to Mexico and dozens of pages on the civil rights movement’s impacts on Grady. Neither of these sections is bad, but the constant changes ruin the book’s momentum.
The inside of the dust jacket even alludes (between the lines) to this problem –
“Reflecting the reality of life in the hospital some individuals appear throughout the stories while others flash by and then are gone, leaving an indelible imprint on the memory.”
While I cannot recommend Grady Baby, it is possible that I am the wrong audience. Expectant mothers and those interested in obstetrics or the poor’ access to health care might enjoy it more than I did. However, any reader is going to struggle with the book’s poor organization.