The Doctor's Wife

The Doctor's Wife

by Elizabeth Brundage

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781440636875
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/29/2005
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 85,696
File size: 828 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

ELIZABETH BRUNDAGE is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she earned an MFA in fiction and a James Michener award. Her short fiction has been published in the Greensboro Review, Witness Magazine, and New Letters, and she contributed to the anthology Thicker Than Blood: I’ve Always Meant to Tell You, Letters to Our Mothers. Her most recent novel is All Things Cease to Appear.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Read an Excerpt


SOMETIME AFTER MIDNIGHT Michael Knowles wakes to the sound of his beeper and picks up the phone. “You want Finney,” he tells the page operator. “I'm not on call tonight.”

“You are now, Dr. Knowles,” the operator says officiously, and puts him through to the ER. A nurse comes on and brings him up to speed in a voice shrill with hysteria. The patient, she explains, a thirteen-year-old girl from Arbor Hill, is in labor, four months premature. “Boyfriend dropped her off about an hour ago and split. No prenatal care, no insurance. Now she's bleeding all over the place and I can't get anyone to give me a consult. Your partner's puking his guts out in the men's room. I'm told it's food poisoning.”

“Give me twenty minutes,” Michael mutters, and like a man called to the service of war he grabs his coat. He had fallen asleep on the couch in the study. He climbs the stairs quietly, feeling strangely like a guest in his own home, wary of the light that burns on his wife's bedside table. He enters the room uneasily, dreading a strained encounter, but Annie is asleep and all the lines of discord have vanished from her face. For a moment he marvels at her beauty, her glorious brown hair, the fleshy protrusion of her upper lip, her T-shirt twisted appealingly across her breasts. His heart begins to pound. She has squandered her beauty, he thinks. He does not know what will happen between them now. But no matter how much he rationalizes what she did, and he does rationalize it, no matter how much he tries to talk himself into hating her, he finds himself loving her more. His love for her is ripe in his mouth. The fruit has rotted perhaps, but he refuses to spit it out. With routine compassion he picks up the book at her side and sets it on the nightstand. For a moment he stands there, half-expecting her to wake, almost hoping that she will. Not to fight anymore, but to find each other inside a single, wordless moment. To find each other and remember what brought them both there in the first place, and why neither has left. But it's too late for that, and she doesn't wake, and they're paging him again. He writes her a note, GOT PAGED, and leans it against the base of the lamp, where she will find it in the morning. Then he switches off the light and steps into the hall, listening to the yearning silence of the big house. It makes him think of his kids and he looks in on them now before he goes. First comes Henry, his ten-year-old son, sprawled across the mattress amid blankets and toys and forgotten stuffed animals. The boy's hamster, Harpo, spins obsessively in its cage and for a moment Michael just stands there, contemplating the creature's useless exertion. In the room next door, Rosie, who is six, sleeps with perfect stillness, maintaining the meticulous hierarchical positioning of her dolls at the end of her bed. Michael can't imagine loving anything more than his children and feels a pang of guilt because he rarely sees them. Quality time, that's what he's resorted to. All part of the failed equation, he thinks, heading down the crooked stairs of the old house and out into the cold night, where it has begun to snow again. The flakes are thick and white like the feathers of birds. He takes a moment to zipper his jacket, to pull on his hood. The night is quiet, the sound of snowfall a comfort somehow, and he pushes himself on, cursing himself for wasting time.

The Saab starts with a lusty roar that makes him grateful that he owns a good car, even though he does not consider himself a man of attachments or possessions. The car smells of leather and promise and his own pathetic gratitude and it comes to him that he's been a fool in his marriage, that what came between him and Annie is his own goddamn fault. It's about him, not her, he realizes. It's about everything he's not.

Angry now, he pulls out of the driveway and speeds down the road, blowing past the squad car parked on the corner. Ever since he delivered the sheriff's babies none of the cops pull him over for speeding. They know people are waiting for him, people in pain, and they respect that. One of the benefits of living in a small town like High Meadow, he thinks, gunning the engine, winding down the hill past Slattery's cow farm, the fields dark and dense and silent, veiled in a dusting of fresh snow. Too early in the season for snow, he thinks, just a couple of weeks shy of Thanksgiving, but the weather is always unpredictable in upstate New York, and after all these years he's no stranger to it. Ordinarily in weather like this he'd take Route 17 down to Bunker Hill, but he's worried about the girl in the ER and decides to take Valley Road instead to save time. Under ideal circumstances the shortcut is dangerous, complicated with tight, snakelike turns, but it takes fifteen minutes off the trip. Tonight Valley Road shimmers with ice. The naked trees seem to tremble in his headlights. The sleet comes out of the dark like millions of pins and he is forced to decelerate, taking the curves slowly, methodically. The suffering girl will have to wait, he tells himself; nothing he can do about it now. At the end of Valley Road he turns onto Route 20, streaming into a line of traffic behind a behemoth snowplow, then onto the interstate, the city of Albany like a white blur before him.

Downtown, the streets are deserted except for a few homeless stragglers. The green neon cross on St. Vincent's Hospital blinks and buzzes like some divine Morse code. Only now, as he pulls through the mammoth jaws of the doctors' parking garage and climbs the labyrinth of concrete to his spot on level four, does it occur to him that something may be amiss. That perhaps the phone call had been a hoax: the bleeding girl, Finney being sick. Now that he thinks about it, he hadn't recognized the nurse's voice and he knows all the nurses at St. Vincent's. The garage is deserted. The hanging fluorescent lights move in the wind, squealing slightly on their hinges. He knows he's paranoid—Comes with the territory, they'd told him when he'd first started at the clinic, and he'd been more than willing to accept that, but now, tonight, he senses danger and he hesitates getting out of the car at all. He looks up at the glass doors a hundred feet away, where a nurse passes by in her pink scrubs, and the sense of routine comforts him. His beeper sounds again—I'm coming, hold your fucking horses—and he grabs his bag and opens the door and they're on him, three or four or even five men, dragging him across the concrete into the dark. Cursing him, shoving him, laughing a little with their raised fists, taking turns splitting open his face, pushing him from one man's arms into another's. A greasy terror sloshes through his head. And then he's down on his knees, someone throttling him, wrapping a cord around his neck, and as the air leaves his body like a pierced balloon he wonders if they are finally going to kill him. The fat one speaks in a cold, even voice, sweat splashing off his lips: “We've had enough, Dr. Knowles, we've had enough of your bullshit,” and then a shock of pain in his balls, excruciating and dense, and he doubles over and pukes—and he is glad for a moment, puking, because he thinks they will leave him alone, but they don't, they kick him again, and again, and he is down on all fours like a dog amid chewing-gum wrappers and cigarette butts and shattered glass and his own puke and he suddenly begins to cry. Where is the guard, he wonders now—why hasn't anyone seen them, some nurse, some technician, some doctor? Why isn't someone calling the police?

“Let's medicate the poor bastard.” Someone yanks back his head and pries open his mouth, dropping in pills. He doesn't swallow, but then he gags and chokes and the bitter powder burns his throat. Water comes next, and more pills, and he can't breathe. Surrender, he tells himself, you have no choice! His body lax as butter, everything blurred and slow and jangling with silence. I can't fucking hear you! he thinks dully. Their big hands, quivering faces, mouths open in laughter. I can't hear anything.

They put him in the trunk. The road vibrates under his head like a jackhammer. For the moment he is relieved to be left alone; he is relieved to be alive. And then it comes to him, suddenly, vividly, that he is going to die.

For months he has waited for this moment, feared it, and now that it is here, finally, now that it is happening to him, yes, to him, it is all the terror he imagined and worse.

Snowflakes on his face. The sky is kissing you, Daddy, he hears his daughter whispering. The men are talking but he cannot make out a word of it. He feels the prick of a needle, the warm drug rushing through him, bringing a taste into his mouth, cotton candy, and a feeling throughout his limbs that is not entirely unpleasant. The men smell of whiskey and triumph as they grip his body and pull him out of the dark place. Staggering with his weight, they bring him in their arms to a car and they put him into it, behind the wheel. Even in his dementia he knows it's his own car, he recognizes the smell, Rosie's paddock boots in the back, Henry's chocolate bars for Cub Scouts, and they strap him in and turn the key and the engine screams. He wants to tell them that he can't see, he's in no shape to drive, but his mouth won't work, his tongue is too big, and now the car is moving, it floats for a moment in midair, then tumbles through the dark like a clumsy animal. Suddenly he understands what they have done and he doesn't care, really, it doesn't matter anymore, and he forgets it, he forgives them all their stupidity, and he can only remember her face, her beautiful mouth. Annie! He screams inside his head. He is screaming and screaming. Annie!

But it is too late. And his wife can't hear him.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“A fine debut, full of psychological suspense, plot twists and turns, malice disguised as religion, the taint of incest, and cheating spouses.”—Library Journal

“No character inhabiting this story will escape unscathed from the choices they’ve made... [a] well-crafted work.” —Ms. Magazine

Customer Reviews

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The Doctor's Wife 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 88 reviews.
VirtuousWomanKF More than 1 year ago
Living in Wichita, KS. allows me to relate to the harassment and lunatics that abortion doctors endure. I am not saying I agree with abortion, quite the contrary, but I absolutely do NOT believe in killing or harassing someone who does. There are religious groups that do act as though they are the judge and jury and their actions, "In the name of Jesus Christ" appall me. Some reviewers feel that this representation in the book is far fetched, believe me it is not. The Doctor's Wife is a very heavy, disturbing but thought provoking novel. It is a very well written book with suspense and the ever prevalent "one bad choice after another", and would make for great for a book club discussion due to the various subject matters. I was really excited to read this book but just didn't love it. I think it was just due to the heavy subject matter and the lack of connection with the characters. If you are looking for a happy read, this is not it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was great. Suspenseful and dramatic. Very defined character personalties. Whether I liked them or not, I still wanted to keep reading.
countrylife on LibraryThing 27 days ago
Why did I ever pick up this book? It started off ok-ish, and just got slimier and slimier as it went along.1. Infidelity. I can¿t see the mother just jumping into bed with the loser in the first place, and certainly not at the local motel every chance she gets, especially during the period of time that her children have been threatened.2. Pedophilia. Implied incest. Mental issues. (Seems like every other book I¿ve read lately deals with someone having mental problems. Dealing with a manic-depressive paranoid-schizophrenic in-law, I¿m just not in the mood to keep reading about mental problems in my get-away-from-it-all readings.)3. Abortion. In the abortion debate, the two sides aren¿t monsters and angels. There are people trying to do the right thing as they see it on each side. Painting all of one side as monsters is not realistic. Three strikes! You¿re OUT of my library!
KKG on LibraryThing 28 days ago
Holy crap this was a good book! Kept me going and wanting to read it.
debavp on LibraryThing 28 days ago
After finishing the book, I concluded that the main character was indeed the Doctor's Wife, but only barely. The Doctor, the Doctor's Wife's Lover, or the Doctor's Wife's Lover's Lunatic Wife could very easily have taken over as the main character and title.The ending left much to be desired...but then so does life. I think this was one of the appropriate times where not wrapping up the loose ends serves the reader better.For me the pro choice v pro life story was secondary as the fascinating unraveling of the characters was the most dramatic aspect of the book.
judithrs on LibraryThing 28 days ago
The Doctor¿s Wife. Elizabeth Brundage. 2004. This was a very suspenseful book. The ideal family meets the dysfunctional family. A vaguely dissatisfied and adjunct professor/housewife finds herself drawn into an illicit affair with a local artist/professor when her busy OB/GYN husband decides to work weekends at the local women¿s clinic. The artist¿s young wife and muse gets involved with a religious group that violently apposes abortion and wages a vicious campaign against the clinic. I enjoyed the descriptions of small college parties and politics, and the descriptions of the artist¿s studio and his paintings. The novel is told in flashbacks. The artist¿s wife¿s madness is vividly described as it is gradually revealed throughout the novel.
porchsitter55 on LibraryThing 28 days ago
This was a great read...suspenseful, scary, sexy, and smooth as silk writing made this one of my favorites of the year! All I can say is get it ~ read it. I cannot wait to get my hands on more by this gifted writer.
Jennifyr on LibraryThing 28 days ago
I thought this book was very interesting and quite riveting. I actually picked it up in the supermarket, and this is probably a little biased, but I never expect much from supermarket reads, but I was pleasantly surprised.
stacyinthecity on LibraryThing 28 days ago
A psychological thriller that kept me turning the pages. Told in flashbacks, this is the story of a doctor and his wife, living in the country outside Albany, NY. He starts doing part time volunteer work for a low cost/free abortion clinic and she begins teaching at a school. These two events will forever change their lives. While she has an affair with a reclusive artist now teaching at the same school, her husband draws the artist's wife's ire for his work as an abortion doctor. These things eventually endanger their lives. While I enjoyed the book, and found it hard to put down, I wished that some reasonable anti-abortion folk had been portrayed instead of them all being so militantly against abortion.
tinas37 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This was a book that I couldn't put down. Just the first line of the book grabbed my attention and I was hooked. The author's use of alternating narrators added to the intrigue. I found the ending to be extremely suspenseful; although I did feel some sympathy toward Lydia and her sense of loss. The ending was totally climactic. This was an excellent read!
WittyreaderLI on LibraryThing 6 months ago
Murder! Intrigue! Abortion! This book has it all! If you want a book that is a character driven suspense thriller, you've come to the right place!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
studious1 More than 1 year ago
This is a gripping wonderful novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is an interesting page-turner that keeps you reading past your bedtime, lol.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A book that can make me fustrated, intrigued and angry at the characters is a good book! Would have liked more of an ending. Felt like there was alot left unsaid about where these characters lives were left at the ending. Definately recommend reading.
sassypickle More than 1 year ago
A good read for a rainy day. Believable characters, some more liked than others. An abrupt and quick ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
OKMom_luvs2read More than 1 year ago
The cover of the book drew me into the world of these conflicted people...educated, uneducated, liberal, conservative, seemingly normal, dillusional...the author wove an interesting story and I wasn't sure the final outcome. The characters' lives were irrevocably woven together and there didn't seem to be a happy conclusion for any of them. Life has a way of doing just that...sometimes there are no true winners. If you like psychological suspense, give this a try.
sweetmarissa More than 1 year ago
The ending I certainly did not like. It was an easy read and there were parts when I could not put it down. I would recommend reading because the plot is quite original and the characters were very memorable.
RozaFL More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the book. Could not put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Romance_rookie More than 1 year ago
In The Doctor's Wife the lives of four people intertwine which leads to a cataclysmic conclusion. Michael is an OB/GYN who has a very good practice, but when asked to help out a former friend with an abortion clinic, he chooses to help. He becomes a target of a Christian group that has been harassing the clinic. Annie, his lonely and neglected wife finds refuge in the arms of a once famous artist, Simon. Simon's wife Lydia suspects the affair. First off, The Doctor's Wife is not exactly a romance, although the relationships between two couples is the focus of the book. I found myself very intrigued by the story. The words and phrases the author uses paints quite a picture, sets quite a setting. The mood of the overall story comes across as very gloomy and tragic. I like that the author starts at the ending first and then works back to the beginning. It is a technique that really catches the readers' interest. For me, I found the story very well written. I thought that the author had a certain way with words and phrases which really drew me into the story. The characters were very well portrayed, enough so that even though there is clearly a bad guy there are also shades of grey with all of the characters. All the characters made mistakes but I felt they all were also redeemable. In my book group not all of us agreed on the likability of the characters. Some of us felt that certain actions were not redeemable. We all seemed to agree that the ending left certain questions unanswered and wondered if the author wrote another book or if another book was forth coming. As far as I know, none has been written. The book is not one that I would have chosen to read if not for the book club. However, once I started the story I was completely immersed in the characters. I am enjoying the book club. It is good to get exposure to books I might not normally read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago