The Spirit of the Place

The Spirit of the Place

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by Samuel Shem
     
 

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Notorious for its Rabelaisian comedy, and celebrated for its humanism, Samuel Shem’s The House of God was hailed as “troubling and hilarious…brutally honest” (The New York Times), a “Catch-22 with stethoscopes” (Cosmopolitan). Now in his most ambitious novel yet, Shem returns to dissect the

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Overview

Notorious for its Rabelaisian comedy, and celebrated for its humanism, Samuel Shem’s The House of God was hailed as “troubling and hilarious…brutally honest” (The New York Times), a “Catch-22 with stethoscopes” (Cosmopolitan). Now in his most ambitious novel yet, Shem returns to dissect the complicated relationships between mothers and sons, ghosts and bullies, doctors and patients, the past and the present, and love and death. Settled into a relationship with an Italian yoga instructor and working in Europe, Dr. Orville Rose's peace is shaken by his mother's death.

On his return to Columbia, a Hudson River town of quirky people and “plagued by breakage,” he learns that his mother has willed him a large sum of money, her 1981 Chrysler, and her Victorian house in the center of town. There's one odd catch: he must live in her house for one year and thirteen days. As he struggles with his decision—to stay and meet the terms of the will or return to his life in Italy—Orville reconnects with family, reunites with former friends, and comes to terms with old rivals and bitter memories. In the process he’ll discover his own history, as well as his mother’s, and finally learn what it really means to be a healer, and to be healed.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Samuel Shem captured the humor, the angst and pathos of medical training in that unforgettable book, The House of God. His new book is an incredible and heartfelt story of a physician whose life has taken the most unexpected twists and turns. The Spirit of the Place entertains, satisfies, and affirms; it is beautifully conceived and brilliantly executed. Shem has done it again!"—Abraham Verghese, M.D., author of Counting for Stone

"A deeply moving and profounding intelligent exploration of the complexities and rewards of family, profession and place. The story of a young physician returning to his small town becomes a tale with universal meaning. This book continues to resonate in the mind and heart long after it is read." —Jerome Groopman, M.D., author of How Doctors Think

"In this lovely novel, Samuel Shem brilliantly describes scenery from the Italian Lakes to the Hudson River Valley with vivid enchanting detail. But his real subject is the landscape of the human heart with its dangers and delights, its vertiginous cliffs and mossy woods, its comforts and contradictions. This is a wonderful book about the surprises of human connection and the infinite power of love." —Susan Cheever

"The Spirit of the Place is written with a large heart, a healing touch, wry and wise insight into the human condition. Worthy of the best of Samuel Shem, which is worthy indeed."—James Carrol

"[A] grand, wonderfully insightful story of love and death, mothers and sons, doctors and patients—filled with larger than life characters and told with outrageous Shem-humor and authentic humanity." —Michael Palmer, author of The First Patient

Publishers Weekly

The latest novel from Shem (The House of God) is the funny and wrenching account of Dr. Orville Rose's return to his hometown, Columbia, N.Y., after the death of his mother in 1983. Orville's mother's will states that he will receive nearly a million dollars, the family house and a luxury car if he stays and works in Columbia for a year and 13 days. At first he is appalled, but he eventually decides to stay, working with local doctor Bill Starbuck. As he tends to the sick and injured, Orville falls in love with local historian Miranda Braak, becomes acquainted with the locals' careless mean-spiritedness (it's so pervasive that Miranda is working on a thesis called "The Columbian Spirit"), observes a townwide battle over whether to save a grand old hotel and receives ghostly visits from his antagonistic mother. It's hard to put down the book as Orville must decide, once the required stay reaches its end, whether to remain or flee with his newfound wealth. Shem deftly comments on the Wal-Mart-ization of smalltown America while entertaining the reader. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425258781
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/04/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
1,002,092
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Samuel Shem captured the humor, the angst and pathos of medical training in that unforgettable book, The House of God. His new book is an incredible and heartfelt story of a physician whose life has taken the most unexpected twists and turns. The Spirit of the Place entertains, satisfies, and affirms; it is beautifully conceived and brilliantly executed. Shem has done it again!"—Abraham Verghese, M.D., author of Counting for Stone

"A deeply moving and profounding intelligent exploration of the complexities and rewards of family, profession and place. The story of a young physician returning to his small town becomes a tale with universal meaning. This book continues to resonate in the mind and heart long after it is read." —Jerome Groopman, M.D., author of How Doctors Think

"In this lovely novel, Samuel Shem brilliantly describes scenery from the Italian Lakes to the Hudson River Valley with vivid enchanting detail. But his real subject is the landscape of the human heart with its dangers and delights, its vertiginous cliffs and mossy woods, its comforts and contradictions. This is a wonderful book about the surprises of human connection and the infinite power of love." —Susan Cheever
"The Spirit of the Place is written with a large heart, a healing touch, wry and wise insight into the human condition. Worthy of the best of Samuel Shem, which is worthy indeed."—James Carrol

"[A] grand, wonderfully insightful story of love and death, mothers and sons, doctors and patients—filled with larger than life characters and told with outrageous Shem-humor and authentic humanity." —Michael Palmer, author of The First Patient

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Meet the Author

Samuel Shem is a doctor, novelist, playwright and activist. A Rhodes Scholar, he was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School for three decades. Shem has been described in the press as “easily the finest and most important writer ever on to focus on the lives of doctors and the world of medicine,” and it has been said that “he brings mercy to the practice of medicine.” The Lancet called his first book, The House of God, “one of the two most significant medical novels of the twentieth century.”  Its sequel, Mount Misery, is about training to be a psychiatrist; Fine is about a psychoanalyst. His 2008 novel, The Spirit of the Place, about a primary care doctor in a small town, was reviewed as “The perfect bookend to The House of God.” It won the 2008 Best Book Award in General Fiction and Literature from USA Book News and the Independent Publishers National Book Award in Literary Fiction in 2009. With his wife, Janet Surrey, he wrote the Off-Broadway hit play Bill W. and Dr. Bob, about the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, which won the Performing Arts Award of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in 2007, and the nonfiction book We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues Between Women and Men, winner of the 1999 Boston Interfaith Council’s Paradigm Shift Award. He has given over fifty commencement speeches on “How to Stay Human in Medicine.”

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The Spirit of the Place 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
As a very young boy, Orville Rose senses that he is "a part of something else," a joyous cry that his mother quickly quashes with the stern response, "This is all there is." Orville runs to his room in tears and basically spends the rest of his life running away. Now after he has served overseas as a Doctor Without Borders and seen all there is to see of suffering, disease, murder and more, he has fallen in love with an Italian woman, Celestina. His tranquility is shattered upon receiving a telegram that his mother died and it is two weeks after her death that he arrives at Columbia, a small town bordering the Hudson River in upstate New York. His mother has stymied her son Orville in two ways: First she leaves him over a million dollars which he gets only after he has lived in Columbia for a year and thirteen days. Second, she has written letters to Orville which an unknown person is mailing, per her direction, to him, letters which are notes condemning Orville for his failure to care for her adequately which he initially takes as truth and proceeds to fulfill in reality. Orville falls in love again after Celestina dumps him for a rich man. As Orville is getting more and more disgusted with his hometown, he meets Miranda and her son Cray, who calls Orville "Orvy." Miranda is handicapped and after awhile Orville realizes how emotionally handicapped he is as well. No, this isn't a morbid book but one in which tragedy, irony, and comedy are always flowing, weaving together and insisting on their own separate, special scenes. In reality, the tendency for all material objects in Columbia to break parallels the brokenness of its citizens. They are blind to progress and what is best for one's own well-being and therefore tend to veto and despise everything new or modern. But it takes a whole novel for the diamond in the rough to emerge in both characters and the town in which they live. You will meet a selfless doctor, a childhood bully turned politician, a woman excelling in her physical beauty and teasing sexuality, a widow terrified to trust in love again, a boy in desperate need of a father, and more characters who immediately grip the reader's interest and don't let go. The Spirit of the Place is fine, literate contemporary fiction about love between a mother and son, son and lover, mentors and more! Wonderful, well-written story!