A man and his adolescent daughter indulge their status as refugees from American society by fleeing to remote Kathmandu.
It’s not exactly high adventure, but Groner shines a unique light on a remote, exotic land in his self-confident and culturally rigorous debut novel. His tale of a doctor and his beloved daughter takes a modern-day bent on Seven Years in Tibet and shows the country’s turmoil with a palette that is as affectionate as it is startling. The story finds Peter Scanlon, an American cardiologist and long-suffering divorcee, dropping into far-flung Kathmandu Valley with his teenaged daughter Alex in tow. Their back story is a bit convoluted—Peter’s ex-wife is an addict, and Alex has taken on a protective role around her long-suffering father. Peter is in-country to take a year as a physician at a local teaching hospital, but his gig disappears. Instead, he takes on a role at a small local clinic treating the most ravaged of the country’s impoverished citizens. Despite their self-imposed exile, the pair finds comrades. Peter befriends another physician and duels with Mina, a hot-tempered local nurse. Meanwhile, Alex finds an abiding friendship, and possibly more, with Devi, a local girl who vacillates between an interest in Buddhist teachings and a loose connection to the local rebels. Peter also butts heads with a local pimp, forcing him to buy a young girl in order to save her from human traffickers. These struggles accent the abiding love that Peter has for his daughter and his heartache at her emergence into adulthood. “She had started her slow walk away from him, and even in her presence he missed her,” Groner writes. “What he faced now was not her physical mortality but the first of the small, unavoidable deaths that lay before it.” With worse to come, even the most jaded reader will be on the edge of their seats as the author carries the story home.
A fast-paced but emotionally resonant story about the bonds that hold fast when we’re far from home.