Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nurse in Acapulco

By Ruth McCarthy Sears, ©1971

Candy Conners realized her heart’s desire when she came to work at the fabulous Norte Americano Hospital in Acapulco. While America’s richest and most beautiful people were playing on the beaches and in the villas of this world-famous resort, Candy gave herself wholly to the demands of her job. She was determined not to let romance interfere with her chosen mission, until she met Dr. Marsh Anthony, who was everything she admired in a doctorand everything she mistrusted in a man. Torn by her confused feelings, she was tempted to accept the comforting security offered her by Dr. Blake Warren. Then came a crisis at the hospital. A heart transplant and a famous patient’s desperate fight for life forced Candy to recognize her deepest needs as a nurse ... and as a beautiful young woman.


“You’ve never lived until you’ve danced all night to a fiddler’s tune with the caller’s ditties ringing in your ears.”

Nurse in Acapulco is a pleasant enough piece of fluff, though not anything to pay more than a couple of quarters for at a yard sale. Unless you’re really interested in kidney transplantation, in which case you should go as high as a buck.

Candy Connors (and I have to stop and shake my head at this unfortunate name) is a nurse from Kansas City, Missouri, now working in—that’s right—Acapulco, Mexico. She’s there because she needs to support her sister Kathy and her sister’s four children back home. Kathy married “sleek, charming Val,” who then “took off unceremoniously,” leaving them destitute. Kathy clings to the idea that “he might have met with an accident, might be a victim of amnesia.” But Candy knows better! Those cute, smooth guys are just bad news!

Enter Marsh Anthony, who is “romance itself!” He is attempting to master kidney transplantation, and he and Candy have long chats about kidneys over coffee in the cafeteria. He is transplanting kidneys between monkeys, and not having much success. This, however, has not stopped him from believing that he should attempt a kidney transplant on an actual human, in this case one of Mexico’s most famous bullfighters, who is dying of Bright’s disease of the kidney. (In real life, successful kidney transplants had begun occurring regularly ten years before this book was written.)

Every time Marsh sees Candy, he says unbelievably cheesy things, which are meant to demonstrate his attraction to her. To wit: “ ‘I’d like to take your pulse, honey,’ he said, winking at Candy, ‘But I think we’d better consider business before pleasure.’ ” “Depends on my mood, and the girl I’m with … the very special girl I’m with.” “I’ve just come from four hours in surgery and I’m beat. I need the calming influence of a pretty girl.” Are you ready to say uncle?

Despite these horrible pick-up lines, Candy “felt herself getting weaker and weaker at the nearness of this attractive man.” Yet somehow she manages to fend him off. Then she meets Dr. Blake Warren, who is everything she feels a man should be: “so calm and assured, so efficient and self-possessed,” the kind of man who, when he invites you out for a walk on the beach, tells you, “Put on some sturdy walking sandals.”

Mexico itself is described lovingly, and indeed these descriptions may be the best part of the book. But there’s the little problem that the country seems to be filled with, well, Mexicans: “The natives [are] unlearned,” “Mexicans are so emotional.” When Candy meets a young girl, “Immediately the child leaned against her with confidence, beaming. ‘I like you,’ she said. … Candy held the small warm body. How trusting and sweet these children of her adopted land—how beautiful! … The soft rich voices, the beautiful manners, the warmth of Mexican affection—anything would seem pallid indeed in comparison. Even the principles of these people were appealing and sincere—quick tears for the unfortunate and quick joy in the simple pleasures of the easy-going life.” Candy appreciates them, yes, but I find more than a bit of condescension in her approval.

The plot turns are just a little obvious: the dying rich patient leaves a nurse all his money, an identical twin is seen kissing another woman and is mistaken for his brother, and Kathy’s husband Val—I just have to tell—really does have amnesia, but finally remembers who he is and comes home!!! There’s a weird section in which Candy goes rushing off to the mountains of Oaxaca to find a relative of the bullfighter to donate a kidney, and brings home an elderly distant cousin—who then turns out to be unsuitable as a donor. For the rest of the book he hangs out at Candy’s house waiting to be called to the surgery that isn’t going to happen, and Candy and her roommate keep asking each other, “What are we going to do with Uncle Jurada?” I found it to be a lazy, hackneyed story without much going for it. But kidney transplantation is described in great detail, so if you’re interested in nephrology, you might get more out of this book than I did.

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