A fast read, and casually engaging, but its ambitious ingredients (the sweep of a social-issues canvas, the page-turner, the incisive character satire) never synthesized into a satisfying meal.
With such an interesting topic to write a story about, Strauss failed to capture my interest in the beginning and thus, failed to keep me interested enough to actually be interested in the more eventful and exciting scenes.
This book is trying to take on so many Big Topics -- race, gender, class, etc., etc.
I wanted to like the book, I love a strong female character and a book that makes you think, but this just couldn't get me hooked.
I couldn't find myself connecting with the characters at all. The novel is set in a world turned upside down-where doctors try to save babies from their parents, police use the law to tear families apart, and the people you think you know best end up surprising you the most.
Dori Goldin, the mother in More Than It Hurts You, presents a textbook case of all those warning signs, and what she and her husband, Josh, endure at the St. Joseph's Medical Center is a nightmare most loving parents don't even know is possible. The novel bursts into action with the words that "snapped Josh's life into before and after." He gets a message at work that his 8-month-old son has been rushed to the emergency room. All this makes for a tremendously exciting story, eerily similar to the recent case of the Georgetown parents who took one of their 8-month-old twins to Children's Hospital only to endure accusations of child abuse and to temporarily lose custody of both twins. When Strauss isn't ripping into Josh's optimism, he's subjecting American attitudes about blacks and Jews to an equally penetrating analysis. She makes a point of wearing her lab coat to the cafeteria so that white people won't "mistake her for an orderly." Dr. Stokes thinks she's making the decision to take away Dori's baby on purely medical grounds, but Strauss carefully fills in the doctor's complicated personal experience with Jews in a way that tempts us to wonder if something else isn't motivating her to break up this happy family. Even when he wants to kill her, Josh reminds himself, "Stop thinking about this woman as black," while Dr. Stokes, for her part, thinks, " Clearly a Jew," before she quickly pushes "that vulgarity from her brain." And when the newspapers and cable news shows get wind of this story -- from the Goldins' crafty Jewish lawyer -- its racial elements flame it into a cause célèbre, all superbly captured with Strauss's pitch-perfect ear for media bluster and grandstanding.
I'm sure that any life involving Munchausen is uber complicated. I'm sure that any life involving medical maladies is complicated. I'm sure bi-racial marriages, bad marriages, fatherless families, and fathers in jail are all complicated. After reading More Than It Hurts You, a culmination of all these issues balled up into one novel is about as complicated a tale as a season of 24 (one of the good seasons, not the one that the writers screwed up by finishing the plotline too early and then adding in what amounted to extraneous last minute filler for the second half of the season, causing most fans to throw their arms up in disgust and actually root for the terrorists).
In this way, I feel that there were about 50-100 extra pages that likely could have been eliminated without shortchanging the story. In opposition to the detail the author had went into in the rest of the book, the ending was very abrupt and left unanswered questions.