Drawing on historical documents, original reportage, and interviews with surviving patients, acclaimed journalist and magazine editor Dawn Raffel tells the marvelously eccentric story of Couney's mysterious carnival career, his larger-than-life personality, and his unprecedented success as the savior of tiny babies.
With a couturier’s skill, Dawn Raffel’s The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies threads facts and education into a dramatic and highly unusual narrative ... Raffel, a journalist, memoirist and short story writer, brings her literary sensibilities and great curiosity, to Couney’s fascinating tale. Drawing on extraordinary archival research as well as interviews, her narrative is enhanced by her own reflections ... The Strange Case of Dr. Couney gives Couney his due.
[The Strange Case of Dr. Couney is] a mosaic mystery told in vignettes, cliffhangers, curious asides, and some surreal plot twists as Raffel investigates the secrets of the man who changed infant care in America ... The Strange Case of Dr. Couney brings together compelling glimpses of the history around his story: Couney's jostling medical predecessors; the classism and racism behind infant care; the spread of eugenics rhetoric; and the rise of the cheap-thrill spectacle add depth to the broad strokes of global events ... In both its most optimistic and most pessimistic moments, it carries the same wry sense of storytelling ... It's a fascinating historical footnote, compassionately told.
The positively bizarre history of the neonatal incubator in the U.S. is delightfully investigated in Raffel’s portrait of the enigmatic Dr. Couney ... Raffel’s research is impressive and her use of primary sources throws a great deal of light on how eugenics and a survival-of-the-fittest attitude justified the lax care of premature babies ... Raffel’s account bounces around chronologically, which can be a bit confusing. But her interviews with Couney’s former patients are inspiring and the numerous historic photographs are amazing and complement the story quite effectively. The topic is compelling on many levels, and Raffel’s arresting and illuminating work of hidden history should not be missed.