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The Spirit of the Place

by Samuel Shem

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8633230,597 (3.42)40
A new novel by the national bestselling author of The House of God Samuel Shem's classic novel about medical internship, The House of God, is required reading in medical schools throughout the world and is celebrated for its authentic description of medical training and practice, for its Rabelaisian comedy, and for its humanism and vision. His new novel, and most ambitious work yet, The Spirit of the Place, tells the story of an expatriate doctor called home to Columbia, New York, in the early 1980s to face his own history and that of the place. It is a novel of love and death, mothers and sons, ghosts and bullies, doctors and patients, illness and healing. Settled into a passionate relationship with an Italian yoga instructor and happily working in a European spa, Dr. Orville Rose's newfound peace is shattered by a telegram informing him of 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. But there's a catch: he must live in her house continuously for a year and thirteen days. As he struggles with his decision--whether to stay and meet the terms of the will or return to his love and life in Italy--Orville reconnects with Bill Starbuck, the town doctor who mentored a young Orville and who practices a long-ago kind of medicine that treats the working poor, people neglected and forgotten by the medical and insurance industries. Now in his seventies, and in need of help with the practice, Bill convinces Orville to stay. During the course of his year and thirteen days, Orville reacquaints himself with Columbia and Columbians. He reunites with his sister and niece and comes to terms with old rivals and bitter memories. And he doctors a community in desperate need of care. He also meets Miranda Braak, a remarkable young single mother who aspires to be the town historian. Her knowledge of and reverence for the past challenges Orville to examine his own history, and her courage, integrity, and love challenge him to grow. In this story filled with wit, pointed insight, and drama, Orville learns what it means to be a healer, and to be healed. The Spirit of the Place is Shem at his finest--compassionate, capacious, funny, full of big ideas and memorable personalities. It offers an authentic, unvarnished portrait of the medical profession and underscores the crucial link between the health of individuals and the health of communities.… (more)

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» See also 40 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
This is the story of Dr. Orville Rose, returned home from Europe to small-town America -- and forced to remain for just over a year in order to inherit approximately $1 million. The story is interesting enough, but I found many aspects a bit contrived -- the unusual will, setting the story in the 1980s and "foreshadowing" the success of Microsoft. At times, it read like chick-lit; but it was redeemed by other times of keen insight into the human heart. All in all, ok, not terrific. ( )
  LynnB | Jun 23, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
When I first received this book, I wondered what I was thinking. I read science fiction and fantasy. I prefer dragons and spaceships to real world based fiction. With the exception of classic literature, my reading leans that way. Upon reading, I can definitively put this book, Spirit of the Place, in the Modern Classic category. I put books in this category when I have a hard time putting them down. And thus having a hard time waiting to pick them back up again.

When Dr. Orville Rose is informed of his mother's passing back home, he is living a nearly Utopian life in Europe with a yoga instructor and happily engaging himself as a physician in a high end spa. His mother has left him a good sized inheritance, but a condition comes with it. He reluctantly returns home to a town he never wanted to return to. He must stay in his mother's house for a year and thirteen days. To occupy his time, he assists the town doctor. During the time he spends there, he finds something he's been lacking (but thought he had) in his Utopian life.

As the imposed time draws near, he struggles to choose between two vastly different lives. I enjoyed following him on his journey of the soul. Even though it's been a while since i sat down and read Spirit of the Place, but it has stayed with me. Dr. Rose' journey into true healing of his spirit.
  thegreatpenguini | May 3, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received The Spirit of the Place by Samuel Shem as a LibraryThing Early Reviewers book.

The Spirit of the Place follows a doctor, Orville Rosea, as he journeys to Columbia, NY to face old ghosts as he learns his mother has willed to him her home.

This isn't my usual fare, although the plot superficially reminds me of John Garnder's final novel, Mickelsson's Ghosts. And although I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, the cover art left something to be desired. Overall this was a solid fictional effort at portraying life in a small town, but I don't know if I'd pick it up again. ( )
  stellabymoor | May 1, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I read this quite a while back, and delayed writing a review because I didn't quite know what to say ... I don't think it was terrible, I've read much worse, but it definitely wasn't memorable. I had to pick it up again and scan through it to remember it -- not the most engaging book I've ever read, and not much happening plot-wise. There are so many other books about small-town America that I would choose over this one. The author does, however, shine a bit when he ventures into medical territory. ( )
  Bks4JHB | Mar 9, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
What’s it about? Orville Rose, a doctor with Doctor Without Borders in Italy, is called home to upstate New York after his mother's death. He goes to collect his inheritance, but his mother has left a catch in her will. In order to collect, Orville must live in her house for a year and thirteen days. He reluctantly decides to stay and, in the process, reconnects with the man who was his mentor and the man who was his childhood bully. While he's there, he winds up taking over his mentor's practice and reexamining his own life.

Random thoughts: Such an odd book. It kind of reminded me of a episode of Seinfeld -- nothing much happens (or at least not quickly), but it's so compelling you can't help but keep reading (or watching, as the case may be). In places amusing and in others confusing, the book doesn't attempt to solve all the mystery or clear up all of the misunderstandings between the characters and, in that, was very life-like. Overall I found it an interesting, if not terribly exciting, read. ( )
  passionforthepage | Jan 14, 2010 |
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For some years, I have been afflicted With the belief that Flight is possible to man. -- Wilbur Wright, Letter, May 13, 1900
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For three generations:  Rose Fuchs Bergman / Janet Lynn Surrey / Katie Chun Surrey-Bergman
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Even a shy American can be happy in Italy, and Orville Rose was about as happy as a childless man can be.
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