Review: Choices by Staffan R.B. Nordqvist

ChoicesThere is a trend in self-publishing for the “selfie” book, a written version of the frequently-seen Instagram snap that appears online so often. Choices: A Physician’s Journey On Two Continents by Staffan R.B. Nordqvist is such a book:  a memoir of a Swedish doctor who emigrates to the USA.

Sometimes humorous, sometimes hard, Nordqvist makes the step to New York in this passage,

I arrived in New York in the early evening. It was raining, cold and dark. I took a taxi to Manhattan and MSKI, my new employer. I told the driver how happy I was to be back in the city where people were so friendly. He thought I was making fun of him and almost stopped the car to let me off.

For those readers feeling the huge gap between now and Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle Part 4 to be released in English some time next year, this book will quell some Scandinavian cravings when Nordqvist indulges the reader with descriptions of Swedish landscapes and customs. Descriptions of Swedish home life and school are fascinating.  This is where the book shines. But I fear the author didn’t find these parts particularly interesting to write. Oftentimes, I felt myself slipping into the details of a country only a native could describe, to be taken straight onto the next era of his life too quickly, with the book dwelling more fully on the passions he himself holds dear.

For example, when Nordqvist talks shop it gets a little harrowing for those not medically minded. While the author may have lost his squeamishness years ago, and obviously is proud of his achievments, thorough descriptions of various gynaecological conditions such as cervical cancer and womb removal don’t make bedtime reading, although I am sure they have a great value for other doctors who may pick this book up. As a woman, I had to actually stop reading some of the descriptions!

The book does tend to be a hotchpotch of the writer’s three marriages, various jobs and houses, and then a swift flurry of odes to his hobbies of golf and sailing at the end that seem tacked on as information the author feels he wanted to get out on paper rather than for the reader’s benefit because they are not relevant to the main theme of the book. Nordqvist comes off as a bit of a womanizer and a party-goer, with a tendency to careless decision-making in his life, and it is here that his anecdotes around the world are entertaining, and should have remained the focus.

Given the confusing timelines and lack of insight by the writer into what may be interesting to others, the book would benefit greatly from a content editor because ultimately it was fairly difficult to hold a thought on golf, a wife, or a career move until many chapters later, especially when suddenly I am reading something even further in the past that when I was introduced to the person in question. By the way, Nordqvist is incredibly candid about the people in his book – I do hope they all know what he’s published about them!

The book does also contain several spelling and grammar errors that are common to non-native English speakers, and because of the sharp and professional cover with the photo of the author by a Hollywood photographer it’s a shame if the author does not get a professional edit for the text before continuing with sales.

Since this review the author has investigated correcting these errors – Editor.

Maybe this is all irrelevant to the author, because in summary, this is a well-written anecdotal book that documents Nordqvist’s time on the planet, accompanied by a selection of interesting photos of various times in his life. The book will serve his descendants and friends with a thorough documentation of his life and family, and it’s an incredibly accomplished way to achieve this purpose.

Google Books


Review Overview