Earlier this month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
As a biographer, I tend to read lots of biographies and memoirs. One of my favorites, which I am re-reading, is My Own Country by Abraham Verghese. Many of your readers are familiar with his current novel and best-seller, Cutting for Stone, an exquisite saga of the type we rarely see today. Verghese is a gifted writer and storyteller whose talents span nonfiction and fiction.Learn more about Henry Kaplan and the Story of Hodgkin's Disease at the publisher's website.
My Own Country tells the story of a newly-trained infectious disease specialist who takes a position in Johnson City, Tennessee at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. We learn about AIDS as Verghese does through his patients and their families. The author captures the voice and spirit of the people of east Tennessee as he unfolds his experiences with them. The tale is as engrossing as a novel, except these people are or were real, and that makes the book even more compelling. Woven throughout are the issues of how it feels to be a foreign physician and how a doctor’s devotion to patients can displace one’s own family.
The central character, Dr. Abraham Verghese, reveals his emotional responses with incredible honesty, humor, and humility—characteristics lacking in many doctor-authors. His quiet dignity and compassion, words he never uses to describe himself, emerge from the page through his interactions with patients, their families, staff, and neighbors. I’ve always loved this book, not just for the writing—the superb characterizations and narrative—but mainly because the author lets us look into his heart in a way few people can or are willing to do.