The author of Learning How the Heart Beats (1995) fulfills the promise of her first book in this wise and heartfelt portrait of an inner-city health clinic. McCarthy, who first wrote of becoming a doctor at Harvard Medical School, is now a full-fledged pediatrician at the Martha Eliot Health Center, serving a mostly Latino housing development in Boston's Jamaica Plain section. It's a world far removed from the one of her privileged upbringing, and while she lives with the feeling of fitting into neither one, she is clearly captured by the richness of human experience her work has made her witness to. Her work world is one where people need each other, and she responds to her patients not just as a doctor but as a human being: When Luz, the mother of one of her sickle-cell anemia patients, is raped and beaten, McCarthy takes the woman and her small son into her home for the night. The caring flows both ways, for when McCarthy becomes pregnant with her second child, the mothers at the clinic are generous with advice. Most problems she encounters have no neat solutions, and she becomes expert at compromising, improvising, and knowing when to back off. As in her earlier book, McCarthy does not sentimentalize those she writes about. She sees her patients whole, with no glossing over of the crime, danger, abuse, neglect, and poverty that mark their lives. She cannot make life fair, cannot cure every child's ills, cannot turn an addicted mother into a warm and loving one, yet she shows us that there is hope, that one person can make a difference. The message implicit in her title is that the children of the poor are everyone's children, and we must all care. Deeply moving and wonderfully human.
Pub Date: March 1, 1998
Page Count: 224
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1998
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