An intriguing, upbeat memoir of an Argentinian doctor coming to America to practice his craft.
When 27-year-old Leo Grieben arrived at New York’s Idlewild Airport from his native Buenos Aires in January 1960, he had $215 in his wallet and the promise of a neurosurgery fellowship at Boston’s Lahey Clinic. The move was difficult for the young graduate of the Universidad de Buenos Aires’ medical school, but he willingly joined “the Argentine exodus” because “Argentina, the country I had been born and raised in, was going to the dogs.” He left behind his wife, Blanca, and his children, and decided to assess the situation in Boston by himself first, after a brief stopover in New York where he quickly learned the golden rule of all U.S. travelers: “[W]hen in New York, do what New Yorkers do.” At the Lahey Clinic, and at Boston’s various hotels and boardinghouses, he faced the challenges that confront all immigrants, from difficulties communicating with a thick accent to simply dealing with loneliness. His accounts of letters to and from Argentina are a touching reminder of the days before e-mail. Eventually his family joins him, and the memoir tells the story of his steadily improving medical career, which takes him from Boston to Minnesota, and includes plenty of warm character portraits and well-told anecdotes. One of the book’s most gripping interludes is a nerve-wracking return trip to Argentina, which proves the melancholy dictum that one can’t go home again. At another point, Grieben has a heart attack while on an outing with his family but his medical training allows him to advise his wife on what to do; this and other stories show the author’s keen awareness of the relatively primitive state of medicine in the 1960s. Through it all, however, Grieben never loses his sunny outlook or his puckish sense of humor.
An unfailingly optimistic take on the quintessential American success story.