A woman physician confronts the moral issues of her time in the third novel in the New York Times–bestselling author’s historical medical trilogy.
Roberta Jeanne d’Arc Cole is favored to be named associate chief of medicine at a Boston hospital. She is married to a surgeon. They own a trophy residence on historic Brattle Street in Cambridge and a summer house in the Berkshire Hills.
Everything melts away. Her gender and her work at an abortion clinic cost her the hospital appointment. Her marriage fails. Crushed, she goes to the farmhouse in Western Massachusetts, thinking to sell it, and finds an unexpected life. How she continues to fight for every woman’s right to choose, while acknowledging her own ticking clock and maternal yearning, makes this prize-winning third story of the Cole trilogy as relevant as tomorrow.
After taking the pulse of nine centuries of medical practice in the first two volumes of his trilogy about the Cole family of physicians (The Physician, 1987; Shaman, 1992), Gordon, in concluding the series, re-examines the modern medical world that he diagnosed 26 years ago in The Death Committee. The protagonist here is R. J. Cole, a 40-ish family practitioner based in Boston, who segued from a promising law career into medicine, where she has been committed to women's rights. Now she is turned down for a top-level hospital post after her participation in an abortion clinic makes her controversial. When her stale marriage to a fellow physician also runs out of steam, Cole moves to the Berkshires, determined to succeed as a country doctor. There, she falls into a problematic romance with a Jewish real estate agent, a recovering alcoholic, former rabbi and single parent for whose 17-year-old daughter Cole secretly arranges an abortion. Gordon's greatest strength is his ability to seamlessly meld his characters' emotional dilemmas and medical crises to dramatic effect. Cole is an appealing figure, and Gordon takes pains with the other characters too, creating thoughtful and nicely nuanced portrayals, especially of Cole's rural neighbors and patients. As a compelling tale of a woman's life and a balanced look at the difficult moral issues driving contemporary medicine, this novel should earn for Gordon the wide readership he already enjoys in Europe. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections.