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The third and last in Gordon's Cole family series (The Physician, 1986; Shaman, 1992) presents a rather somber view of modern medicine, but the unusual protagonist, who is willing to sacrifice all for her life's passion, offers inspiration as a counterpoint. It seems as though Dr. R.J. Cole has it all: a thriving career and a chance for a major promotion on the path to chief of staff at her prominent Boston hospital, a husband who is also a distinguished doctor, an elegant house on Cambridge's famous Brattle Street, and a country home in the Berkshires. As the tale unfolds, however, R.J.'s life emerges as dismal and lonely; her marriage is loveless, and Tom has been having an affair; her work at an abortion clinic is controversial, leading to the selection of another physician for what should have been her new position; and the stress of city life and the impersonal style of urban hospitals (allowing little sustained contact with patients) are making her wonder why she ever turned from her first career, law. When she and Tom divorce, R.J. announces to her two best friends, her longtime assistant, and her dad--another of a long line of doctors in the Cole family--that she will be making a radical life change. She decides not to sell her country house as originally planned but to move in and set up a family practice: it's in a part of state where doctors are few and far between. Once out in wild and woolly western Massachusetts, she finds (at least for a time) the love she has been craving, but the real gain of her migration is what she has been most conspicuously lacking in her life--a renewed sense of purpose. Perhaps Gordon's best work so far; the pace is even, and R.J. is a heroine worth caring about.

Pub Date: April 8th, 1996
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Dutton