Inferno by Dr. Steven Hatch

This book is the reason I finally caved and downloaded an app for ebooks, betraying all the wonderfully dusty-smelling pages of the tangible (albeit tree-killing) books that I love. Initially, it was kind of a random cover on the shelf at the library that caught my attention a while back. I went ahead and rented it, but with two little boys, carrying around a paperback book can be dangerous, so I didn’t get even close to finishing before it was due for return. But it had caught my interest.

So yeah, I rented the ebook version instead. And I’m glad I did.

“The University of Liberia was due to close because of an Ebola outbreak. But students protested and were meet with officers in full riot gear. I was one of the only American journalists there, an officer met my camera’s gaze.” Photo and quote by Monica Melton on Unsplash

In the book “Inferno” Dr. Steven Hatch takes readers with him on his very real medical mission assisting in the heat of the Ebola crisis. He describes the complex web of racism, world politics and a medicine culture that led to one of the most alarming modern outbreaks of a deadly disease.

Most of us in the developed world don’t pause to think how amazing it is that we drink water from a tap and never once worry about dying forty-eight hours later from cholera. Spending some time in Liberia might help to reveal just how truly amazing that really is. In a two week tour, I saw examples of how the lack of such wonders as running water, the ability to summon light at any moment of a twenty-four hour cycle, and cheap and efficient transportation all led to people worrying about dying from any number of maladies, even including cholera. Liberia’s rudimentary infrastructure underscored how these normally invisible advances that make life so livable elsewhere are crucial to the chances that you’ll live to see thirty.

“Inferno”, Steven Hatch

I loved so many parts of this book, but one thing that killed me at the beginning were the “go figure” and “the logical place to start” statements, because, as I told my husband, I was CLUELESS about the ebola outbreak. I think I had even forgotten that it had started in Liberia, only remembering that it had in fact happened somewhere. I couldn’t decide if I thought he was stuck up, if I was really in need of a history lesson, or if he was just writing to a very different and more activist-type audience than, well…me. I’m going to say the latter, but still haven’t entirely ruled out the other possibilities. After the first few chapters of the book, I felt like he had laid a sound enough historical background for me to understand where he was coming from.

Aside from that, I thought that this book was so well written and I felt that the author stuck to his word and tried to be as fair and unbiased towards the people and culture as possible, sharing what he saw without too many assumptions. I respected that a lot and was astonished at some of the events he described. It’s a great read, especially for those interested in medicine and activism.

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