SPIRIT IN THE FLESH by Joel Gross

SPIRIT IN THE FLESH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A heavy-handed medical parable from Gross (The Books of Rachel, The Lives of Rachel, etc.) in which a young artist, dying of cancer, recovers under the sappy faith-healing ministrations of his physician/girlfriend. It's New York City, 1983, and practical, coolheaded, third-year surgical resident Dr. Lizzie Grant is having the affair of her life with a charismatic, up-and-coming, what-a-hunk sculptor named Richard. When he's unable to shake off a minor cold, and black-and-blue marks appear all over his darling pecs, she drags him into the hospital; tests show he has acute leukemia, and possibly only a month or two to live. Suddenly it's Love Story all over again, with Richard playing All McGraw: ""I am going to the park, Lizzie. . .You can't guarantee me another August day when I'm going to feel this good, or even another August day when I'm going to feel anything. I'm going to the park, Lizzie."" They finally start him on chemo, but Richard has lost the will to live, and soon grows so weak he couldn't bench press a canary. It looks like the morgue for sure, until Lizzie--after hearing of the simply marvelous things that witch doctors are going in the Philippines--shakes offher hidebound, 20th-century medical preconceptions and decides to treat the ""spirit in the flesh"" through a kind of faith-healing: ""'You will get well,'"" she said, speaking the words from the purest part of her, from a place of belief that could not be shaken by the paltry knowledge of men."" Richard recovers and devotes part of the rest of his life to volunteer work with the terminally-ill; ""Hi, my name is Richard,"" he says to patients either too weak or too polite to ask him to recite the evening's specials. Gross then dredges up a clumsily artificial device he's used In the past, most unnotably in The Lives of Rachel. Spliced into the frame-tale of Richard and Lizzie are four parallel historical ""novellas"" set in ancient Greece, medieval France, 18th-century England, and 19th-century America--during the course of which a quartet of Florence Nightingales battle male chauvinism and current medical wisdom to heal through the spirit. Five tales for the price of one, then, and each as dull and preachy as the next.

Pub Date: May 28th, 1986
Publisher: Dutton