I almost stopped reading this book. I’m so glad I didn’t.
I am somewhat squeamish, and the extremely detailed medical descriptions at the beginning were getting to me (they did throughout the book, really). It also tends to take me some time to get into books in completely alien settings (I think that’s normal—it’s easier to empathize than sympathize), and a hospital in Ethiopia in the 1950s is about as alien as it gets.
But I kept reading because I was falling in love with the characters. First with Hema and Ghosh, then with Marion, and eventually, with Shiva. That, for me, is one of the marks of a good book.
Another mark of a good book? Wanting to insert yourself inside of it. When I finished I immediately googled “Addis Ababa tourism”. And now it’s on my (very long) wanderlust list. (I’ll be sure to check that there are no more hangings going on when I plan my trip.)
I sobbed through the last few chapters (which led to some stares on the subway and my boyfriend asking, “Do you want me to sit with you while you finish this?”)
If you haven’t already, read this book. Forge through the gory medical details. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be rewarded by an alien, beautiful, heartbreaking story that will stay with you long after you’ve finished.
Some beautiful sentences: