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A Sacred Duty

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Loved it! 😍

A timely memoir about the trials of a public sector worker, and the idealistic motives of those who serve in government.


In an era of rampant cynicism about government institutions, Paula Pedene's memoir A Sacred Duty is a positive reminder of the good intentions and selfless ideals of those who serve in America's public sector. 


Paula, a public affairs office at the Phoenix VA hospital, walks the reader through the hardest period in her life—when her hospital lost sight of its mission, both for her and its patients. Her journey to undeserved corporate purgatory is extensively documented in crisp, distinct language, leaving me shocked at how easily a venerable institution can go off the rails.


Like all great memoirs, A Sacred Duty showed me broader themes in society through the author's story. Specifically, A Sacred Duty is a perfect case study about the danger of bad incentives. Many of Paula's conflicts throughout the book stem from her idealistic motives conflicting with the more selfish motives weighing on the minds of hospital management. Unsurprisingly, these bad incentives eventually harm Paula and many of her colleagues. In that, A Sacred Duty is another iteration of the old Greek saying "Character is fate". 


But, as with so many things, A Sacred Duty's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Paula's feelings are recounted gracefully, leaving no detail neglected. The trade-off is that the description of other events is sometimes wanting. Whole chapters depicting Paula's personal feelings crowd out other, wider events happening alongside Paula, most notably the VA wait-time scandal. The same bad incentives that were battering Paula's personal and professional life were also compromising patients, but the memoir only thinly makes that critical connection. 


Nitpicking aside, I found A Sacred Duty to be a thorough, invigorating work that shines a light on a group of people—public sectors workers—who are underrepresented in the biography and memoir genre. I quickly related to Paula and her service to America's veterans, and believe other readers will too. Any readers interested in government, politics, and business management should place A Sacred Duty high on their reading list.


Reviewed by

My name is Elliott, and this position perfectly dovetails with passion side-project: reviewing books I've read. I started a small book blog a few years ago: https://www.elliottdnixon.com. Since then, I have been looking for ways of increasing my professional experience to help the blog grow.

A Day Like No Other

About the author

Skyrocket Press is a small independent publisher that produces books in various genres, including Epic Fantasy, Young Adult, Memoir, Religious Non-Fiction, Horror, and more. view profile

Published on November 11, 2021

Published by Skyrocket Press

60000 words

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

Reviewed by