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Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese--Focusing on the world of medicine, this epic first novel by well-known doctor/author Verghese (My Own Country) follows a man on a mythic quest to find his father. It begins with the dramatic birth of twins slightly joined at the skull, their father serving as surgeon and their mother dying on the table. The horrorstruck father vanishes, and the now separated boys are raised by two Indian doctors living on the grounds of a mission hospital in early 1950s Ethiopia. The boys both gravitate toward medical practice, with Marion the more studious one and Shiva a moody genius and loner. Also living on the hospital grounds is Genet, daughter of one of the maids, who grows up to be a beautiful and mysterious young woman and a source of ruinous competition between the brothers. After Marion is forced to flee the country for political reasons, he begins his medical residency at a poor hospital in New York City, and the past catches up with him.
The medical background is fascinating as the author delves into fairly technical areas of human anatomy and surgical procedure. (Library Journal)
If you like Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, you may like these titles.
Away: a novel by Amy Bloom
"The story begins in Russia in the 1920s. Lillian Leyb survives the massacre of her family and runs away to New York City to live with a cousin. Ever practical, she allows herself to become the mistress of a star of the Jewish theater, and, although she's not happy, life is not so bad. However, when she finds out that her daughter Sophie may still be alive in Siberia, she leaves everything she has and begins the arduous journey home. She rides trains hiding in broom closets and servicing conductors. She climbs on boats and walks the Yukon trail headed for the Bering Strait and probably death. But she has to try." (Booklist Review)
Beneath the Lion's Gaze by Maaza Mengiste
The brutal 1970s civil war in Ethiopia is the dramatic setting in this first novel, told from searing personal viewpoints that humanize the politics from many sides and without slick messages. The author, born in Addis Ababa and now living in New York, tells the story in unforgettable detail: between Emperor Haile Selassi in his lush palace set against the famine outside, captured in the image of a child gnawing on a stone. The focus is on the family of physician Hailu, first before the revolution and then after the brutal regime takes over. His older son tries to lead a quiet life and look the other way, until Hailu is taken and tortured. The younger son joins the mass demonstrations, exhilarated that change has come, then deflated when he confronts the new tyranny. The clear narrative voices also include the women in the family and others on all sides, who experience the graphic violence, both in the old feudal system, where a rich kid regularly rapes a servant, and in the new dictatorship with torture in the name of freedom. (Booklist)
Better: A Surgeon's Note on Performance by Atul Gawande
"Gawande, a Harvard-trained endocrine surgeon, contributor to The New Yorker, best-selling author (Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science), and 2006 MacArthur fellow, examines the nature of how success and excellence are achieved in medicine and how diligence, doing right, and ingenuity can combine to do better--in not only medicine but also all other human endeavors. In a narrative style reminiscent of Oliver Sacks, Sherwin B. Nuland, and Abraham Verghese, Gawande candidly weaves a tapestry of essays on topics as varied as hospital hand washing, polio in India, surgical tents in the Iraq war, physicians' salaries, malpractice insurance, and doctors' roles in lethal injections. The essays are united, as they highlight opportunities for improvement within the medical community, which serves as a successful framework for Gawande's study of a profession predicated on betterment." (Library Journal)
Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff by Rosemary Mahoney
"Boston native and avid rower Rosemary Mahoney, once an assistant to playwright Lillian Hellman, has led a peripatetic life, and her writing reflects the breadth of her travels and the depth of her thinking on cultural matters. In On the Nile, the author writes beautifully of the connections between culture and history-though critics note how reluctantly she shares details of her own life outside her travels. Still, Mahoney's voice is direct and honest, her Nile as evocative as Paul Bowles's desert, her wit a counterbalance to the unease engendered by such a profound cultural divide." (Bookmarks Magazine)
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
From the author of "The House at Riverton" comes a story of outer and inner journeys as "Nell," abandoned as a child, leaves her adoptive parents in Australia and travels to England to trace her story, to find her real identity--a quest that ultimately leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. (worldcat.org)
Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet : a novel by Jamie Ford.
Set in the ethnic neighborhoods of Seattle during World War II and Japanese American internment camps of the era, this debut novel tells the heartwarming story of widower Henry Lee, his father, and his first love Keiko Okabe.
An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor
A straitlaced novice doctor gets initiated into the unorthodox world of a crafty rural sawbones in Taylor's American debut. Barry Laverty is fresh out of school and uncertain about what type of medicine he should practice when he answers an ad for a physician's assistant in Ballybucklebo, a small Northern Ireland town populated, it seems, entirely by eccentrics. Laverty is initially taken aback by his new boss, Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly, whom he meets as O'Reilly is literally throwing a patient out of his office.
Laverty spends most of the novel swaying between understanding O'Reilly's methods and second-guessing the boxer turned doctor who dishes out plenty of placebos and isn't above telling a white lie or a crude joke to worried patients. Though Laverty often comes across as painfully uptight, he also has an endearing-for-its-awkwardness streak that only surfaces around Patricia Spence, though she'd rather focus on her civil engineering studies than make time for a boyfriend. Serving as a foil to all the innocent fun is the lecherous, greedy Councillor Bishop, who, thanks to a scheming O'Reilly and a reluctant Laverty, gets his comeuppance. Despite the occasional whimsy overload, Taylor's novel makes for escapist, delightful fun. (Publishers Weekly)
The Lassa Ward: One Man’s Fight Against One of the World’s Deadliest Diseases by Dr. Ross Donaldson MD, MPH
Ross Donaldson is one of just a few who have ventured into dark territory of a country ravaged by war to study one of the world's most deadly diseases. As an untried medical student studying the intersection of global health and communicable disease, Donaldson soon found himself in dangerous Sierra Leone, on the border of war-struck Liberia, where he struggled to control the spread of Lassa Fever. The words, you know Lassa can kill you, don't you? haunted him each day. With the country in complete upheaval and working conditions suffering, he is forced to make life-and-death decisions alone as a never-ending onslaught of contagious patients flood the hospital. Soon however, he is not only fighting for others but himself when he becomes afflicted with a life threatening disease.
Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka?i. Here her life is supposed to end - but instead she discovers it is only just beginning. (worldcat.org)
My Name Is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
"The Civil War offers a 20-year-old midwife who dreams of becoming a doctor the medical experience she craves, plus hard work and heartbreak, in this rich debut that takes readers from a small upstate New York doctor's office to a Union hospital overflowing with the wounded and dying. Though she's too young for the nursing corps, Mary Sutter goes to Washington, anyway, and, after a chance meeting with a presidential secretary, is led to the Union Hotel Hospital, where she assists chief surgeon William Stipp and becomes so integral to Stipp's work she ignores her mother's pleas to return home to deliver her sister's baby. From a variety of perspectives-Mary, Stipp, their families, and social, political, and military leaders-the novel offers readers a picture of a time of medical hardship, crisis, and opportunity. Oliveira depicts the amputation of a leg, the delivery of a baby, and soldierly life; these are among the fine details that set this novel above the gauzier variety of Civil War fiction. The focus on often horrific medicine and the women who practiced it against all odds makes for compelling reading." (Publishers Weekly)
My own country : a doctor's story of a town and its people in the age of AIDS by Abraham Verghese
"In fall 1985 Verghese--who was born in Ethiopia of Indian parents--returned with his wife and newborn son to Johnson City, Tennessee, where he had done his internship and residence. As he watched AIDS infect the small town, he and the community learned many things from one another, including the power of compassion. An AIDS expert who initially had no patients, Verghese describes meeting gay men and then eventually others struggling with this new disease. Verghese's patients include a factory worker confronting her husband's AIDS, bisexuality, and her own HIV status and a religious couple infected via a blood transfusion attempting to keep their disease secret from their church and their children." (Library Journal)
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
When his Indian immigrant parents give him an odd name, a boy must struggle towards manhood suffering the burdens of this name as well as the conflicting loyalties of his heritage. (worldcat.org)
Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
A young man struggling for self-realization, Philip Carey becomes caught in a destructive love affair with a waitress, in a novel about sexual obsession, self-discovery, and the complexities of human relationships. (worldcat.org)
A Passage to India by EM Forster
In this hard-hitting novel, first published in 1924, the murky personal relationship between an Englishwoman and an Indian doctor mirrors the troubled politics of colonialism. Adela Quested and her fellow British travelers, eager to experience the "real" India, develop a friendship with the urbane Dr. Aziz. While on a group outing, Adela and Dr. Aziz visit the Marabar caves together. As they emerge, Adela accuses the doctor of assaulting her. While Adela never actually claims she was raped, the decisions she makes ostracize her from both her countrymen and the natives, setting off a complex chain of events that forever changes the lives of all involved. (worldcat.org)
The piano teacher : a novel by Janice Y.K. Lee.
"Claire Pendleton, newly married and arrived in Hong Kong in 1952, finds work giving piano lessons to the daughter of Melody and Victor Chen, a wealthy Chinese couple. While the girl is less than interested in music, the Chens' flinty British expat driver, Will Truesdale, is certainly interested in Claire, and vice versa. Their fast-blossoming affair is juxtaposed against a plot line beginning in 1941 when Will gets swept up by the beautiful and tempestuous Trudy Liang, and then follows through his life during the Japanese occupation. As Claire and Will's affair becomes common knowledge, so do the specifics of Will's murky past, Trudy's motivations and Victor's role in past events. The rippling of past actions through to the present lends the narrative layers of intrigue and more than a few unexpected twists. " (Publisher's Weekly)
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel d'Hiv' roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours. Paris, May 2002: On Vel d'Hiv's 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life. (worldcat.org)
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
May and Pearl, two sisters living in Shanghai in the mid-1930s, are beautiful, sophisticated, and well-educated, but their family is on the verge of bankruptcy. Hoping to improve their social standing, May and Pearl's parents arrange for their daughters to marry Gold Mountain men who have come from Los Angeles to find brides. But when the sisters leave China and arrive at Angel's Island (the Ellis Island of the West) where they are detained, interrogated, and humiliated for months they feel the harsh reality of leaving home. And when May discovers she is pregnant the situation becomes even more desperate. The sisters make a pact that no one can ever know. (worldcat.org)
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Published in 1926 to explosive acclaim, The Sun Also Rises stands as perhaps the most impressive first novel ever written by an American writer. A roman ?clef about a group of American and English expatriates on an excursion from Paris's Left Bank to Pamplona for the July fiesta and its climactic bull fight, a journey from the center of a civilization spiritually bankrupted by the First World War to a vital, God-haunted world in which faith and honor have yet to lose their currency. (worldcat.org)
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Afghan women Mariam and Laila grow close despite their nearly twenty-year age difference and initial rivalry, as they suffer at the hands of a common enemy--their abusive, much-older husband, Rasheed. (worldcat.org)
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
Remembering childhood stories her grandfather once told her, young physician Natalia becomes convinced that he spent his last days searching for "the deathless man," a vagabond who claimed to be immortal. As Natalia struggles to understand why her grandfather, a deeply rational man would go on such a farfetched journey, she stumbles across a clue that leads her to the extraordinary story of the tiger's wife. (worldcat.org)