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ER physician’s first book recognized

Published: Sunday, March 3, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

As an emergency room physician, AJ Knauss sees and hears all sorts of stories.

Those stories, including one in particular, provided inspiration for Knauss’ new book, “Room Four.” Her first published, the book has been listed as one of the Top 100/Best of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews, an American book review magazine.

Knauss grew up in Crystal Lake before moving to Milwaukee, Wis. Her family lives in the McHenry area. Knauss continues to work full time as a physician while writing.

“It’s a wonderful place to work,” she said. “I see people at their best and worst, and that includes the people I work with.”

“Room Four” is about an odd-couple friendship that develops between two patients, one a World War II veteran, the other a younger man at a much different place in life. Jerry, the 87-year-old veteran, actually died in the same hospital room where the younger man, Alan, is lying in a three-day coma.

Knauss describes it this way: “It is a paranormal comedy (because in the ER we have to joke about the serious stuff sometimes) that satirizes bureaucracy.”

The idea for “Room Four” came from actual case Knauss experienced when an elderly man died on an ER gurney while being admitted to the hospital.

“There was an argument that ensued between doctors who had to fill out the paperwork. Did he die in the ER or the hospital?” she remembered.

It was as if they were “holding up his soul” while they settled the argument, she said.

The elderly man became Jerry in the story.

“He was really fun to write, since he is a ghost and has a certain grumpy perspective on everything, he gets away with saying anything,” she said.

The main character, Alan, narrates the story with the “voice of a lot of people, asking ‘Why me? Why did this happen to me?’ ”

“It’s a book about death and dying in a certain way, but it’s also writing from a funny perspective,” Knauss said. “I try to balance the heart of the issue and the passion of the issue, the seriousness and the absurdity. They don’t get along at all, but they’re forced to have these conversations because they’re stuck with each other.”

Knauss said she had been pleasantly surprised to see the positive response the novel received, “Witty and engaging, this short novel will provide readers a dose of hilarity and a quick cure for the workaday blues,” the Kirkus review said.

Knauss is working on a couple of novels right now, potentially a follow-up in which the character Alan goes on to travel overseas, she said. Another potentially future novel tells the story of mother/daughter super heroes.

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