MY OWN COUNTRY by Abraham Verghese


A Doctor's Story of a Town and Its People in the Age of AIDS
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 A grim reproof to all who want to deny that AIDS has arrived in America's heartland. For five years in the late 1980s, Verghese was an infectious- diseases specialist in Johnson City, a town in northeastern Tennessee; in that time he saw his AIDS patient load soar from 1 to more than 80. AIDS was brought to Johnson City by way of New York, San Francisco, Miami, and elsewhere by prodigal gay sons who, after a few years of freedom, returned home to die. It was brought by way of a truck stop on the interstate where gay locals congregated for anonymous sex. It was brought by way of transfusions of tainted blood. With the observant--but never dispassionate--eye of the clinician, Verghese notes everything about the remarkable, varied patients who seek his help, including: Will Johnson, a Bible Belt entrepreneur who believes AIDS comes from Satan; Luther Hines, whose bitter rage keeps him alive while his body is consumed by tuberculosis, candidiasis, and other infections; Vickie McCray, who faithfully cares for the unfaithful husband who infected her as he sinks into AIDS dementia. Verghese leaves nothing to the imagination as he describes the gruesome effects of the opportunistic infections that attack those with AIDS. He surprises us with unpredictable instances of compassion (friends changing diapers on a man with uncontrollable diarrhea) and cruelty (from members of the medical profession). But this is also Verghese's personal story, which dovetails with that of his patients. As a foreign-born doctor of Indian descent tending outcast patients, he too was a bit of an outsider in rural Tennessee. He is touchingly honest about his own flaws and about the strain his all-consuming medical practice placed on his marriage. Verghese, who has written for the New Yorker and other publications, offers a powerful testimony to the courage of those who live and die with AIDS and of those who care for them. (Book- of-the-Month Club alternate selection; Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selection; author tour)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-671-78514-1
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1994


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