Rx: DOCTRINE OF CHANCES by Sarah Tueting

DOCTRINE OF CHANCES is part inspirational memoir, part true crime drama that tells the story of a family’s unexpected plight, when they learn that their night nurse has been abusing their infant twins, and the slow recovery process that follows.


Sarah Tueting, a former Olympic hockey player with a neuroscience degree from Dartmouth and MBA from Stanford, didn’t think her life could be more full of love: She shares a strong connection with her husband and is the new mother of long-awaited twins—Kalvin and Grace. However, the day her nanny notices swelling in Kalvin’s left leg, everything changes. After stressful examinations, doctors report that both Kalvin’s legs have been forcefully broken, and it is undoubtably a result of abuse. Sarah becomes disoriented and consumed by guilt for exposing her children to Aubrey, the night nurse who has a hidden history of abusing infant twins.

Evil has become very real to Sarah, and she soon recognizes this as the root of her struggle. Through time, closure, and a new love—hose riding—Sarah begins to heal finding comfort in the freedom and joy she feels while riding Woody, her horse, despite the infuriating legal proceedings she must endure. Sarah finds a way to forgive herself and grow as she sympathizes with fellow victims and takes the steps that are within her power to protect other children against Aubrey. In the end, Sarah and her husband agree to a plea agreement in order to ensure that Aubrey will never again be alone with children she could hurt. Sarah eventually recognizes the power in simply letting herself be loved, and as her children continue to grow and develop distinct personalities, Sarah becomes more filled with love than she ever imagined.

Teuting seamlessly peels back the layers of her life and exposes her raw emotions and thoughts, creating a diary-like memoir that is both well-written and effortlessly funny, as only one’s true and candid responses can be. Tueting’s story will resonate with anyone who has had to overcome life’s difficulties, face adversity, or experience the dark side of humanity. DOCTRINE OF CHANCES will also attract readers who enjoy true crime, police-procedurals, and books about justice.

While I applaud Tutuing’s effort in writing a very readable memoir, the transition between the opening of the story and the moment when the author flashes back to the discovery of abuse could be more subtle. Perhaps the first two chapters could become the introduction and the flashback could open the first chapter. I also found the repetition tiring–the story could be streamlined so that any redundancy is reworked in a new way.

Tueting’s work reminds me of Wild by Cheryl Strayed in that both books hinge on the recovery process and what nature can do to heal even the most damaged parts of us if we open ourselves up to it. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs may also serve as a comparison based on subject matter in that it also deals with life’s tragedies and how we respond to them and overcome them. A more modest comparison might be Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott, which reflects the witty, honest, and casual tone of Tueting’s work, has an infant as its subject, and deals with overcoming obstacles.

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