THE QUEEN OF HEARTS by Kimmery Martin
Berkley, February 13, 2018
The Queen of Hearts is the story of Zadie and Emma, two friends who have been inseparable since they were teenagers. Now they’re each happily married with children, successful in their careers as doctors, and still as close as ever. But when a figure from their past resurfaces in their lives, a charming surgeon called Nick Xenokostas, the two are forced to confront events from their third year of medical school that they’ve long since put behind them.
My feelings about this book are extremely mixed. I’ve never seen Grey’s Anatomy, but I get the impression that this is basically Grey’s Anatomy in book form – a sort of melodramatic, over the top but engaging medical drama, which relies on entertainment value to compensate for its narrative faults.
My main criticism is how the alternating point of views of Zadie and Emma were written. Neither of them had individual voices, at all – occasionally my mind would wander for a minute, I’d come back to the book and think I was in a Zadie chapter, and then I’d read the sentence “Zadie said to me,” before realizing oops, I was actually in an Emma chapter. That’s not to say that Zadie and Emma were two iterations of the same person – the differences between them are clearly highlighted – they just happened to have the exact same narrative voice. It’s an easy trap to fall into when you have two alternating first-person perspectives, so I wish Kimmery Martin had varied their vocabulary or syntax of speech slightly, especially given the differences in their upbringings.
There was also a lot about Zadie’s character that never quite rang true for me. We’re told so often how charismatic she is, how people naturally gravitate toward her, but none of that charisma is reflected in Zadie’s narration. To me, Zadie always struck me as competent, intelligent, and caring, but none of these things in abundance – she just seemed like a very average sort of person. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It just didn’t quite add up with what we’re told about her.
Emma, on the other hand, I absolutely loved. She too is initially presented as competent and intelligent, but there is so much more going on beneath the surface which is gradually uncovered throughout the course of the story. I thought her narrative arc was brilliant and sad and so realistic – she’s the kind of character who’s so human that you don’t like the bits of yourself that you see reflected in her. That was extremely well done.
I think I’m going to have to go with 3 stars, though… I did quite like this overall – it was a quick, entertaining, and at times emotional read – but the occasionally sophomoric writing and amateur construction of Zadie’s character dragged it down for me. (Not to mention the way Zadie’s three-year-old daughter talked… god, I have never encountered a more annoying toddler either in real life or in literature.) I would recommend it though, especially if you’re interested in stories which examine female friendships.
One last note – this book is very heavy on the medical side of the medical drama, so if you can’t stomach graphic descriptions of medical procedures, this is definitely not the book for you.
Thank you to Netgalley, Berkley, and Kimmery Martin for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.