“Fixing Mr. Fix-it,” this month’s Notable Narrative, tells the story of inadvertent amputation, its medical reversal, and the efforts of Norm Martin—“Mr. Fix-it”’—to recover and resume his life. Author Diane Suchetka deftly describes not just an accident in a body shop (which involves a fire truck, hydraulic lifts, and a concrete pit) but also the complex medical details of Norm’s surgery. Suchetka’s use of suspense propels us, as we wonder if Norm will survive, if the surgeries will work, and if his family will crack during the inevitable financial collapse.

Suchetka’s serial, which appeared in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, braces its narrative arc with mundane details, from the two hours it takes for Norm’s wife to massage his hands, knuckle by knuckle, “to keep them from clawing,” to the fact that the paramedics taking Norm to the hospital have made thousands of runs but “have never been met in an emergency room by so many people waiting to save a guy’s life.”

The end of the story feels inconclusive, because the tale stops before we have any real sense of what Norm will gain or lose in the long run. We felt we understood Norm’s role in his community more than we understood him. But Suchetka’s clear language and tight focus kept us reading “Fixing Mr. Fix-it” through the last lines of the final installment.

Read “Fixing Mr. Fix-it,” by Diane Suchetka

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