Little, Brown, Aug 2003, 22.95, 400 pp.
When she was a young teen, her mother abandoned Catriona Lydgate, leaving the child to the machinations of governmental entities. Several years later, preschool teacher Catriona met and married Richard, a divorced father of one of her students. Over the next few years life seems perfect to Catriona.
Everything changes when POSTCARDS FROM BERLIN arrive from either her mother or someone who knows her past. More upsetting is when her eight-year-old daughter Daisy becomes very ill with a stomach flu. The doctor initially rejects Catriona's concerns, but eventually (to shut Catriona up) refers the preadolescent to a pediatrician. The two medical professionals conclude that Catriona is the prime cause of Daisy's disease and bring in the authorities to investigate. A distraught Catriona pleads with Richard to help her hide her ugly childhood from the investigators that she believes supports their position of her being a nut case, but he refuses. Catriona sees her world collapsing but must take a risk on reaching out to the past that could destroy her so she can help her child.
This condemnation of the British health care system is at its strongest when the reader is not sure whether Catriona is a beleaguered person fighting the bureaucracy for her daughter or a paranoid maniac whose buried past resurfaced pushing her over the edge. A romantic subplot takes away from the deep look at the protagonist and the failures of the health care system. Though Richard is described as a womanizing loser, the audience will comprehend why he struggles with his wife's demands. POSTCARDS FROM BERLIN is overall a strong look at when an institution fails through the eyes of the victims.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner