Crossings by Jon Kerstetter


Jon Kerstetter

In Crossings, Jon Kerstetter beautifully illuminates war and survival, the fragility of the human body, and the strength of will that lies within.

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Every juncture in Jon Kerstetter’s life has been marked by a crossing from one world into another: from civilian to doctor to soldier; between healing and waging war; and between compassion and hatred of the enemy. When an injury led to a stroke that ended his careers as a doctor and a soldier, he faced the most difficult crossing of all, a recovery that proved as shattering as war itself.

Crossings is a memoir of an improbable, powerfully drawn life, one that began in poverty on the Oneida Reservation in Wisconsin but grew by force of will to encompass a remarkable medical practice. Trained as an emergency physician, Kerstetter’s thirst for intensity led him to volunteer in war-torn Rwanda, Kosovo, and Bosnia, and to join the Army National Guard. His three tours in the Iraq War marked the height of the American struggle there. The story of his work in theater, which involved everything from saving soldiers’ lives to organizing the joint U.S.–Iraqi forensics team tasked with identifying the bodies of Saddam Hussein’s sons, is a bracing, unprecedented evocation of a doctor’s life at war.

But war was only the start of Kerstetter’s struggle. The stroke he suffered upon returning from Iraq led to serious cognitive and physical disabilities. His years-long recovery, impeded by near-unbearable pain and complicated by PTSD, meant overcoming the perceived limits of his body and mind and re‑‑ imagining his own capacity for renewal and change. It led him not only to writing as a vocation but to a deeper understanding of how healing means accepting a new identity, and how that acceptance must be fought for with as much tenacity as any battlefield victory.

Advance Galley Reviews

I received an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review via First to Read. How truly horrifying and shocking! I could picture all these young people living a virtual hell! This made me cry! How he was strong enough to live it is beyond me! Well written!

This was an intense and powerful memoir. Jon Kerstetter was able to elevate himself from childhood on an Oneida Indian Reservation by pure strength of will and determination. His is a story of continuing to cross boundaries and borders that would have bested many people. I enjoyed reading his history of growth, marriage. parenthood and professional achievement. A very large part of his story is his military service in the Army and three deployments in Iraq as a trauma surgeon. Due to a fall crossing uneven ground, he broke an ankle and badly damaged a shoulder, and this ultimately ended his military career. During treatment for his injuries, a brain aneurysm was found, and during treatment for that, he suffered a serious stroke. The tone of the book changes here: for the first time we see what the struggle costs, we learn the depth of his doubts and fears. The depth of relationships with his children and his wife, Collins, is revealed slowly, but with real love and tenderness. The strength of the narrator is revealed by his determination to wring as much meaning and joy from life as he can, and he seems to grow very much in what he can return to others. This was a good read, and revealed that strength of character sometimes lies in being able to play the cards dealt to you.

Kerstetter's Crossings is in a class by itself. His brutal honesty and his way with words resonate with a power unlike any I've read before. What sets Kerstetter's work apart from others is also how he explains how he had two lives while serving in the military -- he was both a doctor and a soldier. He both took lives and saved them. It's a juxtaposition that he comes back to throughout the novel and a concept that continues throughout his life, even after he can no longer practice the profession he became obsessed with as a young child. A remarkable read, one that will stay with me for a long time to come.

CROSSINGS is a memoir by a medical doctor/soldier who battles more than PTSD when he get back to the States. Particularly interesting and insightful were the author’s three tours of duty in Iraq. He described the war with such clarity that you felt as though you were serving alongside him. But most moving were the author’s struggles to redefine his life after a stroke… relinquishing his doctor/soldier identities and taking on a new role – that of a writer… and a good one at that. My thanks to Penguin First to Read for the Advance Reader Copy.

From working in the medical field for many years, I completely understand the conflict of being a doctor and a soldier. The section of the book about his tours in Iraq was the most interesting to me, along with his therapy and recovery from the stroke. I lost interest during the last two sections and very quickly skimmed through the last 40 or 50 pages.

I was given an ARC of this book for me honest opinion. I don't normally read book this genre which is the exact reason I choose it; to hope it would change my view. It started out uninteresting, but did capture my interest later. The details were very descriptive.

I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was very impressed by the author of this book. Having idolized the show M*A*S*H for most of my life, I've always been perplexed at how the medical personnel were able to reconcile a health career with soldiering and war. This book helps to answer that conundrum. Just the memories of his military career as it related to his family and health career would have made this book great in and of itself. I was immensely impressed by the inclusion of his medical issues. The PTSD and stroke must have seemed insurmountable but I give the author much respect in his drive to overcome his imperfections left by his history. This book is a tribute to a great man, and should be read by anyone interested in medicine, the military, or those who simply need to understand a life of exceptional service.

Thanks for the ARC of this book. Reading the first half of the book, I was giving up hope of sticking with it. The war experiences were vivid and the witnessed trauma horrific. The physician is accomplished and a hero . I felt guilty for not liking him. There seemed to be cursory mentions that his deployments were tough on his wife and family.I can't imagine how tough it was on them. Families of the deployed ihave a very rough road to hoe. I realize this was the physian's memoir but I would lliked to to read how his family coped . Once the book shifted to his stroke/ neuro deficits, I was all in. I think his recovery and emotional and physical reactions ran true. For a control freak to come to terms with these deficits was honest and another type of heroism. Anyone who has to confront this type of recovery is a changed person.It is not necessarily who you want to be.but being the best person you can be is no small task. I would recommmend this read to anyone who has attempted recovery from a catastrophic health event or those who care for them.

This book is hitting SO close to home for me. We have a current Army physician in our family, and I am really enjoying this physician's account of his career so far. I've had to step away a few times because the book has resonated with my family so much, but in a good way. I am looking forward to finishing this story!

Although the writer's life is undeniably interesting, the writing itself didn't keep my interest. I couldn't finish the book.


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