An engaging debut novel (originally self-published in 1995) describes the complicated lives of various expatriates living in the hinterlands of northern India.
Mary Davis is a long way from home. A physician from Baltimore, recently widowed, Mary has traveled to a remote Indian village in the shadow of the Himalayas to work in a small mission hospital that her late husband Richard once served. Why? Partly to forget, partly to remember: Richard had always spoken so lovingly of the place and its people (especially of hospital director Dr. Vargeela) that Mary thought the trip would not only serve to distract her from her grief but to bring her in some way closer to her husband’s memory. The reality, of course, was something of a shock. Dr. Vargeela was an able physician indeed—but he disappeared on a business trip shortly after Mary’s arrival and left her in charge of the entire operation. She quickly learned to function without the luxuries of American hospitals (MRIs, blood labs, etc.) and soon found herself practicing without many of the essentials (antibiotics and disinfectants). But most annoying were the hippies who drifted through the region: perpetually drunk and stoned, they took up endless hours in the clinic with their overdoses and accidental injuries. One of them, Phillip Davenport, becomes a major nightmare: The son of a British diplomat, Phillip breaks his neck and has to be evacuated to a better-equipped hospital elsewhere. This task is entrusted to Meena, a young but dedicated nurse, and a shady British driver named Antone. Swaddled in the back of an ancient Jeep, Phillip is painstakingly driven along the bad roads of the region for several days—until Antone concocts a scheme to kidnap Phillip and demand a ransom for his safe delivery. Secreted in an out-of-the-way inn with the loyal Meena, Phillip awaits his rescue. Will it come in time?
A fresh spirit animates this tale, one carefully constructed, simply narrated, and briskly organized.