Book Review: The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies

The Strange Case of Dr. Couney

Because of my already scroll-like to-read list, I get really anxious when someone gives me a book recommendation. However, when I was tipped off that this book would be coming out on July 31, I checked every day for a pre-order deal and then lasted approximately two weeks after it came out, checking every day for a sale until I broke down and just bought it for $18. I never spend that much on a book, but…

Book 28:
The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies
by Dawn Raffel

Medical Professional Biography, History

July 2018

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Strange Case of Dr. Couney is about Dawn Raffel’s search to uncover the truths of Dr. Martin Couney and the things she learns about his story along the way. Several claims have been made on what Dr. Couney did and didn’t do – whether he was even an actual doctor or not – but little evidence supports most of those claims. What is known by fact is that he saved thousands of American preemies and low birth weight newborns in his infant incubator exhibits, where the babies were displayed to the public, for more than three decades in the early 1900s, most famously at Coney Island in New York City.

Favorite Quote(s):

When is it cruel to force a heart to beat? That question continues to haunt the beginning of life – as well as its end. What do we do with the means to keep someone alive in a near-vegetative state? To what extent does it matter if that someone is an infant or a nonagenarian? Technology, from life support to genetic testing, and editing, keeps making the choices harder. Which lives are worth saving? Who decides?” 

-Dawn Raffel

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.


My Overall Rating:
4 – If someone had said, “I’ve got a great Medical Professional Biography I think you should read,” I would have never expected to take them up on it. However, preemies, isolettes and the advancement of early NICU technology… I knew I had to read this one. I thought it might be an emotional read for me, and at times it was, but things were very different in the early 1900s, creating a distinct separation between myself and the mothers of preemies mentioned in the book. I learned so much from reading this book and was so impressed by Dr. Couney’s work, but what I loved most about it is that it reads like a mystery novel. I had to remind myself several times that this is a true story. I kept wanting to read more because I wanted to uncover the answers with the author.

Regardless of your experience with preemies, isolettes and NICU technology, I would still recommend this book. If you like mystery and history, this one can take you on quite the ride. I might just have become a bit of a Couney Buff myself after this book…