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The Spirit of the Place

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Samuel Shem's classic novel about medical internship, The House of God, is required reading in medical schools throughout the world and is celebrated ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of The Spirit of the Place

Overall customer rating: 3.000
Polymath

A Mixed Review

by Polymath on Apr 7, 2008

(This review is for the Advanced Reading Copy) A 40-year old doctor returns to his hometown at his mother's death and finds that the terms of the will require him to stay there for a year and thirteen days in order to inherit. While there, he helps out as a doctor for the town, tries to work out his love life, and contends with letters and appearances from his dead mother. I have to give this book a mixed review. On the one hand, I did want to know what happened, I liked the appearances of the doctor's flying ghost of a mother, and the town that specialized in bad decisions. There were some memorable descriptions and ideas in here. By the time I finished the book, I was thinking about the choices we can make in our lives that lessen us, and felt encouraged to try to do better. On the other hand, if I hadn't wanted to finish the book in order to write a fair review, I might have stopped partway. I could have done without the many graphic descriptions of broken and wounded people the doctor had to take care of. There were quite a few plot cliches that, especially when described out loud to my fiance, caused eye-rolling. I can 't be more specific without being a spoiler, so I'll just say that they are the "and it actually turns out that..." type. I found myself wanting to know if this town was real (it appears to be based on Hudson, NY), and if the town history had any accuracy (it does). The author did his homework. But there is a glaring piece of urban mythology that is brought into the plot, and I'm still scratching my head about how it got into a real book. It was one of the accidents the doctor has to contend with - the classic "men drive onto the lake to ice fish, throw dynamite to make a hole, loyal dog retrieves the stick, returns, boom!" story (it's all over the internet). I was so startled to find this in a novel, that it knocked me out of the flow of the book. Would I recommend the book? I wish it had been better. I guess I wouldn't tell someone not to read it, but I might not press it into their hands.

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