A Good Doctor's Son: A Novel

A Good Doctor's Son: A Novel

by Steven Schwartz


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780688154011
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/21/1998
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.58(h) x 1.05(d)

About the Author

Steven Schwartz has received the Nelson Algren Award, the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, the Sherwood Anderson Prize, and two O. Henry awards. He is the author of one other novel, Therapy, and two short story collections, Lives of the Fathers and Leningrad in Winter. His fiction has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tikkun, Redbook, Ploughshares, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Antioch Review, Epoch, Missouri Review, and has been recorded for Selected Shorts and NPR. An associate professor of English at Colorado State University, he has taught at the Warren Wilson MFA program and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, where he was the John Gardner Fellow in Fiction. He was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 1993.

Read an Excerpt

I was fascinated by the Olans because they'd tried to break into the new neighborhood, as we had, and because they were having an even harder time than we were. When I stood on a milk crate under their back window, I had only wanted a glimpse of ourselves in the extreme. Their kitchen, tidy, clean, had the same Formica breakfast table as ours, a light blue oval with a large toaster on it. Right below my nose, under the window, was a wash sink filled with soaking clothes. I was amazed, given everything that was happening to them, that the Olans could carry on with life inside. Suddenly my shoulders were grabbed from behind and I was yanked backwards. Two seconds later I was flat on my back on the cold grass with a flashlight shining in my eyes.

I could see through the glare that it was policeman and that he was from Garden City. "What are you doing here?" He was young, or young compared with Officer Dennis, who would have understood why I was here and to whom I could have explained my curiosity.
"I'm just looking," I said
"You're just looking for trouble," he said. "Now get out of here."
But at that moment the back door opened, and Officer Dennis, who was indeed inside and had come out to see what all the commotion was about, saw me and said, "David?"
"Yes sir," I said.
"Bring him inside, Tim," he told the officer.
And I wound up at the Olans' Kitchen table. Mrs. Olan had just made a pot of coffee. She was a tall, thin woman with glistening black hair and long lanky arms that seemed to be in every place at one time. She brought me milk and cookies and put her hand warmly on the back of my head, and I missed my own mother doing that. My mother hadn'ttouched me or held me much in the last year, and it seemed she was always wringing her hands or looking at me too anxiously for me to want her to touch me.

Mrs. Olan, though, had been crying. Her eyes were red, and against her dark skin they looked fiery. Mr. Olan came into the kitchen with his head down, saw me, and blinked hard. "He's Dr. Pete's boy," explained Mrs. Olan.Mr. Olan nodded at me, and I said, "Hello, sir" as I'd been trained to do.

Officer Dennis leaned back against the kitchen counter, sipping the coffee Mrs. Olan had made. Everyone was quiet in the kitchen, and after Mrs. Olan sat down at the blue Formica table, Mr. Olan came over and patted her shoulder, and she took his hand and pressed her face against his palm. "She's sleeping now," Mr. Olan said. Officer Dennis looked down at his coffee cup. Something was wrong, terribly wrong, I realized, beyond the neighbors hating these people. Something at the center of their lives that mattered more and was less comprehensible than any forces outside their home.

I put down the chocolate chip cookie. It was homemade and tasted delicious, but I thought it was insensitive to be gobbling cookies and gulping milk right now.

I heard footsteps down the stairs, and my father came into the kitchen with his black doctor's bag. His face was pale, the shadows deep around his eyes. He had sharp, strong features and dark curls, and people had said he reminded them of Tony Curtis, but he looked worn down, sunken and deflated like my old basketball in the garage. When he saw me, it startled him, but only momentarily. So thick was his distress that even my inexplicable presence here couldn't jar him from his heaviness. He turned to the Olans. "The ambulance will be here soon," he told them, and Mrs. Olan put her hands up to her face.

Copyright ) 1998 by Steven Schwartz

What People are Saying About This

Andrea Barrett

"Tense, compassionate, and beautifully written, this novel renders vivid but difficult path by which a young man, in the wake of a senseless death, makes sense of life."

Marly Swick

"A Good Doctor's Son takes newspaper headlines and turns them into poetry, recording the aftershock of a trigic accident with power, clarity, and authority of Greek drama."

Gish Jen

"This is what moral writing can be -- subtle, and honest, and a great read besides."

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