The Laws of Invisible Things


"Not long into Michael Grant's first year in his new practice, a young girl in his care unexpectedly dies. Recently divorced, living in a self-imposed state of isolation, he takes the news hard: He might not have been able to change that outcome, but he didn't do all in his power to prevent it, either. So when the girl's grandfather, a local pastor, asks him to take on the girl's father as a patient, he feels he must oblige his wishes. Examining the man, Michael notices an unusual pattern - a white, serpentine spiral - on the back of the throat
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The Laws of Invisible Things: A Novel

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"Not long into Michael Grant's first year in his new practice, a young girl in his care unexpectedly dies. Recently divorced, living in a self-imposed state of isolation, he takes the news hard: He might not have been able to change that outcome, but he didn't do all in his power to prevent it, either. So when the girl's grandfather, a local pastor, asks him to take on the girl's father as a patient, he feels he must oblige his wishes. Examining the man, Michael notices an unusual pattern - a white, serpentine spiral - on the back of the throat and in his eye. But before a diagnosis can be made, the man is dead, and soon Michael himself is experiencing symptoms of the strange illness." Believing that he has stumbled across a new disease but unable to convince his colleagues, Michael sets out to gather evidence. The quietly forceful reverend compels Michael to consider explanations beyond science; at the same time, a tentative relationship with a colleague's daughter draws him slowly back into the world. Soon he's embarking on a quest that takes him deep into a wilderness of disease, religion, and mystery, ultimately leading him to question not only his belief in the order of the world but his own place and purpose within it.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is no hospital horror tale, but an earnest inquiry into the ambiguities of illness and the morality of the medical profession....The intimate tone of Huyler's elegiac voice invites us to...think again about the things we think we know."—The New York Times Book Review

"A compelling, curious book with rewards on nearly every page."—The Economist

"Gripping...Huyler writes such subtly forceful prose...that his novel takes on a cool, uniquely powerful sense of dread."—Chicago Tribune

"[We] had better hope that our caretakers have meditated on the wisdom and compassion of books like The Laws of Invisible Things."—Boston Globe

"A cunning meditation on faith and its loss."—The San Francisco Chronicle

"Chilling, subdued and scalpel sharp...deftly plotted, rich with psychological and ethical nuance."—Publisher's Weekly (starred review)

The New York Times
Although the story elements are melodramatic, the intimate tone of Huyler's elegiac voice invites us to rise above our disgust and think again about the things we think we know. — Marilyn Stasio
Publishers Weekly
Chilling, subdued and scalpel sharp, this debut novel by the physician author of The Blood of Strangers (1999)-a highly acclaimed collection of starkly realistic short stories set in the world of medicine-explores the hazy borderlines of sin and disease. Just out of training, 35-year-old Michael Grant is in his seventh month of practice with an established internist in a medium-sized North Carolina city when the young granddaughter of an African-American minister dies in his care. Because he thinks he might have been less than thorough in handling the case, he agrees to honor the minister's request to examine his son-the dead girl's father-who is also ailing. The exam reveals a curious white tendril-like pattern on the back of the patient's throat and inside his eye. Regrettably, before he has enough lab work to make a diagnosis, the patient quickly worsens and dies in a house fire. When Michael begins to experience similar symptoms and almost dies, too, he is convinced he has encountered an insidious new infectious disease. Unable to convince his colleagues, the disease-ravaged Michael embarks with Nora, his senior partner's daughter, on a quest to identify the nameless scourge. Evidence leads Michael to exhume the body of the elderly minister's granddaughter, and the trail takes them to a remote mountaintop. Deftly plotted and rich with psychological and ethical nuance, this fine debut succeeds equally as medical suspense novel and understated morality play. (Apr. 2) Forecast: The medical thriller is a well-established genre, but literary novels with medical themes are rarer. Readers who enjoy the essays of Abraham Verghese and Atul Gawande will find Huyler takes a similar tack in fictional form. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Emergency-medicine physician Huyler is also a poet and the author of the excellent essay collection The Blood of Strangers: Stories from Emergency Medicine. His first novel focuses on Michael Grant, a newly divorced doctor who has just moved to North Carolina and joined the practice of widower Ronald Gass, a much older physician. Grant's lonely personal life is soon in turmoil as it intersects with the black Williams family. Soon after his arrival, Grant treats the granddaughter of Rev. Thomas Williams; the little girl dies, probably due to an oversight by Grant. As a favor to the minister, Grant agrees to see his son Jonas, the girl's father, who has bizarre symptoms that Grant thinks may indicate a previously unknown disease; Gass is skeptical, almost scornful of this idea. Within days, Gass dies of natural causes, Jonas is dead from the disease, and Grant himself is hospitalized with the same symptoms. Huyler combines the melodramatic elements of a medical thriller with rich characters and the same fine writing and eye for telling details he demonstrated in his first book. In the process, he explores doctor fallibility, race relations, and the limits of both faith and reason. Recommended wherever good medical fiction is popular.-A.J. Wright, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham Lib. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A somber and moving fiction debut by Huyler (The Blood of Strangers: Stories from Emergency Medicine, 1999), who describes a young physician trying to trace the origins of a mysterious new disease. At 35, Michael Grant is trying to start a new life. Fresh out of medical school, residency, and a bad marriage, Mike has moved to a small city in North Carolina and joined a local practice. His partner, Ronald Gass, is experienced, patient, and somewhat cynical-a good mentor for a young practitioner. But Gass's wife died a few months after Mike arrived, and her grieving husband has since left nearly all of the work in Mike's hands. A while ago, Mike treated an eight-month-old baby, a girl who died of meningitis, possibly because he had not prescribed antibiotics before the diagnosis was in. Although he followed correct procedures, Mike was also careless, overlooking certain lab reports, and feels secretly guilty about the case. As a result, he agrees to treat Jonas, the dead child's father, for free when he comes in complaining of fatigue and hallucinations. During the examination, Mike notices strange discolorations on the inside of Jonas's mouth, white spiral markings that correspond to no known disease, and discovers that his blood count is dangerously low. Tests for AIDS are negative, and nothing in the standard medical literature describes Jonas's condition. Mike becomes excited, thinking that he may have discovered a new disease, only to be stymied when Jonas dies in a trailer fire a few days later. Though an autopsy confirms Mike's suspicions that he was venturing into uncharted waters, with the patient gone there is nothing for him to work on-until he starts to suffer the same symptoms.But Gass can't see the spiral discolorations on the back of Mike s throat. Has he really caught the disease (whatever it may be)? Or is he just losing his marbles? A genuinely eerie and suspenseful tale, narrated in a nicely understated tone that perfectly fits the characters and situations. Agent: Christy Fletcher/Fletcher & Parry
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312424527
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 4/1/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Frank Huyler is an emergency physician in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His first book was The Blood of Strangers (0-8050-6597-0) and his poetry has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Georgia Review, and Poetry.

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