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The Doctor's Daughter: A Novel Hardcover – February 28, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (February 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034548584X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345485847
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #582,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A keen observer of the drama inherent in family dynamics, Wolitzer (Ending; Hearts; etc.) returns after a 12-year hiatus with this novel about Alice Brill, a 51-year-old wife, mother, frustrated writer and "book doctor" who wakes one morning with a disturbing pressure behind her sternum. The daughter of a once renowned but now senile surgeon, Alice initially thinks her symptom might be a sign of breast cancer, which took her mother's life 30 years before. Or could it be psychological: a reaction to being downsized as senior editor at a book publisher? or a premonition that the recent squabbling with her husband, Everett, signals a point of no return in an often competitive marriage? Is it unfulfilled creative impulse? In her attempt to diagnose her symptom, Alice scours her childhood relationship with her then imperious father, her mother's poetry, Everett's motivations for harshly disciplining their youngest son, and her own unexpectedly erotic response to a talented new writer who comes to her for advice on his first novel. With her customary grace and perspicacity, Wolitzer reveals her characters' humanity as they alternately flirt with and shun the very truth they seek about themselves, until escalating complications force them to choose to grow or be left behind. (Feb. 28)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The mother of prolific author Meg Wolitzer returns with her first novel in 12 years, which focuses on the simmering emotions of middle-aged "book doctor" Alice Brill. Her father, once a brilliant surgeon, is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and her youngest child may be a drug addict; but there is something else gnawing at Alice, a deeper worry that seems to be lodged in her chest and arouses a sense of dread. Nagged into seeing a psychiatrist by her blunt best friend, Alice begins to recover a memory from childhood that will cause her to reevaluate her parents'seemingly idyllic marriage. Meanwhile, her long-term marriage to Ev is suddenly rent by vicious disagreements about how to handle their son, and Alice finds herself physically attracted to a promising young author whose book she is editing. An astute observer of domestic travails, Wolitzer gives even the smallest events seismic significance, drawing a straight line, for instance, between a missing paperweight and the implosion of Alice's marriage. Alternately claustrophobic and insightful, this long-awaited novel will appeal to fans of Sue Miller. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

I'm a late-blooming novelist and I mostly write about domestic situations. I truly believe that what happens in bedrooms and kitchens matters as much as what happens in boardrooms and statehouses. The novel I'm writing now is somewhat of a departure; it's a psychological mystery, although family relations are at the heart of the story.

Customer Reviews

What is developed of the main character is unlikeable.
virginia reader
The characters are well developed and the story takes some interesting twists.
Lisa Pozzi
Perhaps I'll try one of her previous books and see if the story is better.
Avid Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Kcorn TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this author so I was excited to read her newest book, especially since there was such a long hiatus between books. As I read, I couldn't help but wonder if Hilma Wolitzer drew on her own experience and if this helped explain the long wait between books. Everything just seemed so real that it made sense that she'd have been writing from personal experience, at least to some degree.

Based on her real life or not, this one is absolutely spell-binding, filled with characters that come alive and with a world which was so engaging that I didn't want to leave it, didn't want to finish the book.

At the heart of the book is Alice, in her 50s, a wife, a mother, a frustrated writer...and who is facing way too much pressure as one crisis after another emerges. She is being demoted at work, her children aren't turning out as she expected and her marriage is in major crisis. As if that wasn't enough, she has an aging parent to handle, leading to a review of her past, of her entire life.

I really related to this book, not because I face similar crisises in my life (at least, not yet) but because the writing was so sure and authentic. Everything seemed believeable and, as the best books so often do, this one revealed how hard true growth can be - but how necessary to a fulfilling life. Read this one carefully and you'll find yourself feeling richer for the experience - and perhaps even a bit wiser - all while being entertained by a very fine writer. What more could one ask?
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on March 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Fifty-one year old Alice Brill awakens one morning knowing something is very much wrong. She feels it deep in her breastbone where she has always received terrible news. She knows that what is amiss is a personal problem, not a worldwide issue. However, she has no idea what exactly the mysterious foreboding is about.

Naturally, Alice's life isn't perfect. She lost her job as an editor in a publishing house but has mostly recovered from the sorrow of that blow. She now finds satisfaction in her work as an independent book doctor. Her father has slid into senility and currently resides in a nursing home; her mother is long dead. Alice and her husband Ev are arguing frequently, with many disagreements centered on their underachieving, misdirected son Scott. Could her sudden unhappiness be simply disappointment in her own life? After all, she had once taken satisfaction in writing fiction, as had Ev. Both of them have let their art go in order to work at jobs to support a family.

Alice is particularly intrigued by a novel manuscript she is editing and becomes more and more fascinated by the author, a young man in Michigan far from Alice in New York. She finds herself looking forward to his emails and phone calls. Can this untoward attraction be the mysterious trouble of which she remains constantly aware?

Alice also wonders if an unresolved puzzle from the past could contribute to her unease. While delving through the paperwork of her mother, a published poet, she stumbles across a mystery. Hidden away, she finds intriguing letters and a poem new to Alice. Could her mother have had a secret life? As she reads the poem, she discovers something alarming in her own body.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on June 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was not nearly as enamored with this book as most of the reviewers below. The biggest problem for me is that Alice simply was not a sympathetic character. She whines and excuses her bad behavior all the way through. She also covers up for and excuses the deplorable behavior of her near-do-well son. The only sympathetic character was the husband, who I sided with and felt extremely sorry for throughout the entire story. Her trips to the shrink are boring and add little to the story. I also thought that Alice was ridiculously over dramatic about the "secret" from her childhood she finally remembers, and overly dramatic about the death of her parents, as if she is the only person in the world who has ever suffered these experiences. Woe is me! Sounded like a pity party to me. All and all, not a winning story line, although the writing itself was really good. Perhaps I'll try one of her previous books and see if the story is better.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By B. Case TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
"The Doctor's Daughter" by Hilma Wolitzer is an intelligently written mystery of self-discovery. Ultimately, it is about a woman coming to terms with the person she has become.

In the beginning of the story, the protagonist, Alice Brill, has a strange, malignant feeling in her chest. The book takes us on a quest to find out what ails her. Is it breast cancer? Is it a failing in her marriage--a failing in her career? Why did her mother's literary career suddenly stop when she was a child? What seems to be dying inside her: Is it her body or her soul?

Both Alice and her husband are highly educated literary scholars who married with a lovely dream of supporting each other's successful literary career. But after more than two decades of marriage, Alice only sees herself as "a failed Scheherazade who couldn't keep anybody alive with her stories." Instead of creating literature, she earns her living as an editor, a book doctor. She buries her dream of creating her own works of fiction, instead she doctors others' works. Her husband also must bury his literary ambitions after the financial realities of their first child's birth make him take a position in his family's printing business.

The novel takes us on a journey of recollections through Alice's life. Along the way, we get to know her mother, the successful published poet who suddenly stops publishing. Why? We get to know her father, the brilliant, autocratic, narcissistic surgeon. All her life, Alice has a lived in the cocoon fiction of her parent's marital bliss. But is that true? She sees possibilities that all may not have been right with their marriage. Her father is now in a nursing home in the later stage of Alzheimer's, so he is little help in leading her toward the answers to her questions.
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