The acclaimed author of My Own Country (1996) turns his gaze inward to a pair of crises that hit even closer to home than the AIDS epidemic of which he wrote previously. Verghese took a teaching position at Texas Tech’s medical school, and it’s his arrival in the unfamiliar city of El Paso that triggers the events of his second book (parts of which appeared in the New Yorker). His marriage, already on the rocks in My Own Country, has collapsed utterly and the couple agree to a separation. In a new job in a new city, he finds himself more alone than he has ever been. But he becomes acquainted with a charming fourth-year student on his rotation, David, a former professional tennis player from Australia. Verghese, an ardent amateur himself, begins to play regularly with David and the two become close friends, indeed deeply dependent on each other. Gradually, the younger man begins to confide in his teacher and friend. David has a secret, known to most of the other students and staff at the teaching hospital but not to the recently arrived Verghese; he is a recovering drug addict whose presence at Tech is only possible if he maintains a rigorous schedule of AA meetings and urine tests. When David relapses and his life begins to spiral out of control, Verghese finds himself drawn into the young man’s troubles. As in his previous book, Verghese distinguishes himself by virtue not only of tremendous writing skill—he has a talented diagnostician’s observant eye and a gift for description—but also by his great humanity and humility. Verghese manages to recount the story of the failure of his marriage without recriminations and with a remarkable evenhandedness. Likewise, he tells David’s story honestly and movingly. Although it runs down a little in the last 50 pages or so, this is a compulsively readable and painful book, a work of compassion and intelligence.