Book review: ‘My Odyssey with Donna’

For the Recorder
Published: 1/21/2022 4:27:10 PM
Modified: 1/21/2022 4:26:05 PM

The Broadway musical “Hamilton” has a line that never fails to get a round of applause from the audience. Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette high-five each other as they agree, “Immigrants: we get the job done!”

The memoir “My Odyssey with Donna” by Jose Peczon illustrates the ways in which one immigrant contributed to our local community. Born in the Philippines in 1933, Peczon spent almost four decades as an ophthalmologist in Greenfield.

The book’s subtitle is “An Immigrant Filipino Family’s Path to Success.”

Peczon founded the Greenfield Eye Center and spearheaded technology that made cataract surgery more efficient and safer. He helped consolidate the hospitals in Greenfield and Turners Falls. And he helped numerous patients, both in Franklin County and in his native country, achieve better health.

The Donna of the book’s title is the author’s wife of more than 60 years, who died in 2019. Her widower describes her as a terrific nurse, helpmeet, mother, athlete and hostess.

According to the acknowledgments, the book is an expansion of a manuscript Peczon originally created only for family and close friends. It thus delves extensively into lists of the author’s family members on both the maternal and paternal side. It also relates childhood memories, both happy and sad.

The book, published by Fulton Books, is imperfect as a memoir for the general public. Peczon repeats himself frequently, and as a non-writer he doesn’t possess the narrative skills to do justice to his life.

For example, he opens the book with a description of his father’s murder in 1948. The event was obviously tragic for Peczon and his relatives, yet he can’t quite make the reader feel the shock and horror of the bereaved family.

Despite these flaws, the book will speak to local readers. Peczon describes the hardscrabble life of his youth, dealing in particular with the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.

Later in the book, describing his pioneering work with cataract patients, he demonstrates bravery and flexibility that clearly came from that youthful time. His experiences dealing with adversity and his determination to be successful in his new homeland clearly paid off for the doctor and for his patients.

Jose Peczon comes across as both likeable and sympathetic. The personality of his wife, Donna, is a little harder to gauge. They obviously adored each other, however, and she comes across as a strong figure. Indeed, strong women — including Peczon’s mother and grandmother — pay a large role in this memoir.

All in all, any reader can learn from Peczon’s energy, his enthusiasm, and his devotion to his wife.

Tinky Weisblat is the award-winning author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website,


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