by CJ Lyons

An audio file of this program is available in mp3 format; click to listen.

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is Lifelines by CJ Lyons, first time author, former ER physician.

The idea is so simple, so perfect, it’s hard to believe it hasn’t been done before. What do people love? Medical dramas. What else? Ensemble character dramas. What else? Books that turn into series so you get to follow the exploits of characters you already know and care about. Add these three things together and I think you can call your travel agent. And when the writer is a natural talent — as CJ Lyons is — well, I would be very surprised if there weren’t lots more books in the Lifelines series. (There have to be, I need to know what’s wrong with medical student Amanda! She’s got Mysterious Symptoms!)

So, here’s what we’ve got: four women who work in a busy urban hospital in Pittsburgh — one chief attending, one student, one nurse, one resident. They’re from different places and backgrounds but have that foxhole camaraderie we so often see in medical dramas.  And by the way, it was nice to see women friends, not romantic rivals or petty bitches. These women certainly have their share of quirks but they work hard and they work together. There are no Mean Girls in the ER. There’s action — a race riot, murders, lots of traumas, and some romance, and Lyons keeps things moving at the sort of clip you’d expect if you’ve ever seen a stretcher crashing through the swinging doors on ER. If Lyons wasn’t a compelling writer, the plot may have been just enough to carry me along to the end, but the thing is she seems to be uncannily good at everything she does, and she’s created some genuinely interesting people, most of whom are trying to do the right thing, save lives, make it through their shifts. She’s als0 got a right wing militia involved and they hit just the right level of creepiness and dead-eyed fanaticism.

I was afraid this would be a Grey’s Anatomy style soap opera but the author clearly didn’t want to go in that direction. The medicine is believable (admittedly, what do I know? But it seemed plausible) and the women and men are people I will want to keep an eye on in the future. (Because, Amanda’s symptoms!)

BTW, make a note to yourself: July 1st is the most dangerous day of the year. That’s the day the newbies go to work in hospitals all over the country. See? We strive to educate.

As a final note, in the interview with CJ Lyons on XM, we talk about the weird cat-like creature the heroine has living in her yard, which turns out to be a Siberian Forest Cat. Here’s a pic of my Norweigan Forest Cat, Leeloo. She’s striking a provocative pose in the bathtub.

Buy this book from