It’s a powerful message, though, and well worth the read. Dr. Allen tells his true-life story of how, as a 38-year-old surgeon at the peak of his career, an operating room accident and near-death experience forever altered his life. In an instant, he went from being at the pinnacle of his medical career to becoming entirely dependent on his aging parents to take care of him. The cause of this dramatic event was a near-electrocution in the operating room that caused life-changing mental and physical damages. As he is writhing on the floor, he hears a voice telling him: “I’m not ready for you yet. You have more work to do.”
It’s a credit to Allen’s writing that even though readers are told by the book’s jacket material that the near-electrocution took place, he still manages to build suspense leading up to the moment – “How did it happen?” and “Is this the moment it will happen?” are the questions.
Eaten By The Tiger is particularly significant because it is written by a medical doctor who is not afraid to criticize members of the medical community or methods of medical treatment. He is in a position to do so because he’s lived the other side of the doctor/patient story so intimately. He reveals that in his opinion, physicians often ignore the psychological components of a patient’s condition.
But this is not a book about condemning medicine. It is a book about resilience and what the human spirit can accomplish against great odds. As an example, even following the horrific near-electrocution, Allen returned to work seeing patients the next day, unaware of the damage done to his mind and body.
It is shortly after this that the true extent of the damage done to Allen emerges and this is when the book’s journey truly takes flight. This man, who was once healthy and strong, has to nearly begin again the effort to return to a full quality of life. Along the way, with help from various sympathetic experts, he examines aspects not only of his life but life in general.
He asks himself, when contemplating the loss of all that he had, how much the “things” in his world – work, status – really mattered. He questions “Is the identity I am shedding truly what I’d wanted to become in the first place?” And he explores the difference between problems and challenges, leading him to insight about grief, acceptance and letting go of the past.
These are elements readers of all backgrounds can identify with and learn from. It’s simplistic advice but meaningful and thought-provoking. Is it the greatest writing ever achieved? Not really. It falls just short of being a profound master class in philosophy or spiritual growth.
But that is not what is at heart here. Eaten… is worth reading because it comes not from a psychiatrist or psychologist who has studied life’s principles and adversities, but rather from one who’s lived them and come out the other side of darkness. It’s Oprah-type of book that can appeal to the masses.
The Tiger experience, it turns out, is fear and learning how to let go of it. The reward for winning the battle against fear, and for reading the book, is an immense sense of gratitude and appreciation for life.
Published simultaneously as one of my book reviews on www.bookpleasures.com.