[Book Review] Every Minute Is A Day by Robert Meyer and Dan Koeppel

Not all COVID-books are for doctors.

Like many healthcare workers, I have often turned to narratives to cope with my work, and these have been plentiful during the (COVID) pandemic. But eventually one reaches a point where you can no longer look into the mirror of your daily life – and I have reached that limit much sooner than I expected. 

Every Minute Is A Day by Meyer (MD) and Koeppel is dedicated to the “many, many people [who] died alone, without their loved ones.” This is important: the express purpose of this book was “to honor and respect those this disease claimed.” 

I cringed when I first considered my rating for Every Minute Is A Day. I did not exactly love Meyer’s memoir, but I do not doubt that it will find its audience of ardent readers.

With the advent of COVID literature, I have often found myself drawing parallels with books written about World War II. For as long as I have been a reader, WWII has been a favourite topic of authors and readers. Why is it that the world so loves a good Auschwitz novel?

Reading Every Minute Is A Day gave me some insight into that phenomenon. While WWII took place long enough ago that most readers alive today did not experience it personally; it occurred recently enough that the effects on our lives remain tangible.

Conversely, the world is still living COVID, and throughout Every Minute I have not been able to clear the term “too soon” from my mind. Meyer writes how “the rules kept changing” – and they continue to do so. In some ways, Every Minute feels like a tribute written too soon. 

Does Meyer’s memoir achieve what it set out to do? I believe so. It may clear up much confusion for laypersons. I think it may provide peace when people think about their relatives, and how they could not be with them in their final moments. I hope that survivors will know not only that their healthcare workers cared, but how they cared. I hope they will know that the masks, the PPE, the difficulty communicating, were all as challenging for their doctors as for patients and relatives. That death weighed heavily on them, and that any perceived inadequacies were doubly perceived by healthcare workers themselves.

So much of the memoir should be relatable, but the authors actually detract from that by focussing largely on Montefiore – a hospital they are clearly, and rightfully, very proud of. But that singular focus leads to an atmosphere of “us, alone” – we alone were suffering. We alone were scrambling to make things work. That this is not the author’s intention is not the point – the impression that it creates, is.

What I miss most of all is growth, and hope. Every Minute depicts so well the despair. The confusion. The feelings of failure. But by the end of it all, I cannot see the growth I would have liked to see, and once more I venture that it comes down to timing. The author cannot depict that which is yet to come fully to fruition. Again, I do not think the time is right for THIS memoir. Soon, but not yet. 

I received an advanced review copy of this book via Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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