Seeing an end in Weisberg’s ‘In the End’

Kudos to Dallas’ Michael Weisberg, who has just published his second work of fiction.
I happily endorsed his first novel, “The Hospitalist,” not only as a good read, but because I felt the author was sharing a view that agreed with my own: The major contribution of this new breed of “healer” keeps patients even further separated from their own physicians.
But this new book, “In the End,” is quite different. It presents a larger cast of characters as the complex individuals they are. The reader quickly gets to know and understand Gabriel, a gastroenterologist patterned after the author, who tells us that his “real life” patients often ask him what the meaning of life really is. And, as you read, you may find clues to an always-elusive answer in the Jewishness apparent throughout the text.
We quickly learn that Gabriel can’t really answer the question himself because his own son, a promising young man, died from a cancer he had been unable to diagnose. So, we understand Gabriel’s concern about a wealthy woman who had first come to him a year before for a colonoscopy, and was sent home happy with the test’s negative findings, only to return again to repeat the ordeal. Gabriel wonders, “Did I miss something?”
We learn how difficult this test is, for doctor as well as patient, and meet the team that works with him: the nurse, the anesthesiologist, the physician assistant. As individuals, they represent major subgroups that are constants on the radar screen of today’s society: the abused woman, the gay man, the young black trying to overcome the difficulties of his heritage. All are fully developed characters, each with a subplot that lets us know them — as we do Gabriel — outside of office and operating theater. Each has a dream of achievement and happiness, and for each, it appears that there may be light at the end of a dark tunnel, the elusive pot of gold at the end of life’s often not-so-beautiful rainbow.
But then, everything changes in a single instant.
Our author uses history and current events as the backdrop for the lead-in to the surprising end of “In the End,” which begins — literally — with a bang. The Big Bang, as a matter of fact. Gabriel is spared the agony of having to tell his patient that this colonoscopy does not have the good results of her earlier one; while he is agonizing over whether or not this is something new, whether he might have missed something the last time, the End arrives. And we, the readers, move with it — out of the medical realities of today into the province of futurists, into the realm of science fiction; we are there as the atom bomb falls and takes everyone away.
What, then, is the meaning of life? To answer this, Weisberg takes us far, far into the future, into an imagined 2,000 years’ afterlife, for what might be one possible answer.
All writers write from what they know. Even science fiction writers are no different. Instead of writing only about what they know for certain, they take what they know today and project where this knowledge might put them tomorrow — even into 2,000 years of tomorrows. Weisberg takes a daring leap here, and invites you to take it with him. Accept that invitation, read the final chapters of this book with the wide-open eyes of imagination, and perhaps you’ll agree that this could be one answer to defining the meaning of life.

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