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The Spirit of the Place Hardcover – June 15, 2008


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The Spirit of the Place + Mount Misery + The House of God
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 334 pages
  • Publisher: Kent State University Press; 1st edition (June 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0873389425
  • ISBN-13: 978-0873389426
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,167,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Samuel Shem captured the humor, the angst and pathos of medical training in that unforgettable book, The House of God. His new book is an incredible and heartfelt story of a physician whose life has taken the most unexpected twists and turns. The Spirit of the Place entertains, satisfies, and affirms; it is beautifully conceived and brilliantly executed. Shem has done it again!"--Abraham Verghese, M.D., author of Counting for Stone

"A deeply moving and profounding intelligent exploration of the complexities and rewards of family, profession and place. The story of a young physician returning to his small town becomes a tale with universal meaning. This book continues to resonate in the mind and heart long after it is read." --Jerome Groopman, M.D., author of How Doctors Think



"In this lovely novel, Samuel Shem brilliantly describes scenery from the Italian Lakes to the Hudson River Valley with vivid enchanting detail. But his real subject is the landscape of the human heart with its dangers and delights, its vertiginous cliffs and mossy woods, its comforts and contradictions. This is a wonderful book about the surprises of human connection and the infinite power of love." --Susan Cheever
"The Spirit of the Place is written with a large heart, a healing touch, wry and wise insight into the human condition. Worthy of the best of Samuel Shem, which is worthy indeed."--James Carrol

"[A] grand, wonderfully insightful story of love and death, mothers and sons, doctors and patients—filled with larger than life characters and told with outrageous Shem-humor and authentic humanity." --Michael Palmer, author of The First Patient









--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Samuel Shem (pen name of Stephen Bergman) is a novelist, playwright, and, for three decades, a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty. His novels include The House of God, Fine, and Mount Misery. He is coauthor with his wife, Janet Surrey, of the hit Off-Broadway play Bill W. and Dr. Bob, the story of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (winner of the 2007 Performing Arts Award of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), and We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues between Women and Men. Editors Carol Donley and Martin Kohn are cofounders of the Center for Literature, Medicine, and Biomedical Humanities at Hiram College. Since 1990 the Center has brought humanities and the health care professions together in mutually enriching interactions, including interdisciplinary courses, summer symposia, and the Literature and Medicine book series from The Kent State University Press. The first three anthologies in the series grew out of courses in the Biomedical Humanities program at Hiram. Then the series expanded to include original writing and edited collections by physicians, nurses, humanities scholars, and artists. The books in the series are designed to serve as resources and texts for health care education as well as for the general public.

More About the Author

Samuel Shem (pen name of Stephen Bergman) is a novelist, playwright, and, for three decades, a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty. His novels include The House of God, Fine, and Mount Misery. He is coauthor with his wife, Janet Surrey, of the hit Off-Broadway play Bill W. and Dr. Bob, the story of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (winner of the 2007 Performing Arts Award of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), and We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues between Women and Men. Editors Carol Donley and Martin Kohn are cofounders of the Center for Literature, Medicine, and Biomedical Humanities at Hiram College. Since 1990 the Center has brought humanities and the health care professions together in mutually enriching interactions, including interdisciplinary courses, summer symposia, and the Literature and Medicine book series from The Kent State University Press. The first three anthologies in the series grew out of courses in the Biomedical Humanities program at Hiram. Then the series expanded to include original writing and edited collections by physicians, nurses, humanities scholars, and artists. The books in the series are designed to serve as resources and texts for health care education as well as for the general public.

Customer Reviews

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Dr. Rose' journey into true healing of his spirit.
Angelwolfe
Like all good books this one should be read repeatedly until its pages are tattered and its back weakened.
Bonnie
Could he learn to love, or at least accept his hometown.
Shana Schmadeke

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Shana Schmadeke on September 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Spirit of the Place makes two books in a row that have reminded me why I should never judge a book by its cover. The cover of this book left me thinking 'meh' but the novel itself knocked my socks off.

Shem's prose is mesmerizing and beautiful. This is a book to be savored. The plot steadily unfolds versus rushing forth. And yet, it held my attention from start to finish.

The most outstanding aspect of this novel, for me, was the emotional depth that Shem conveyed in his characters. Especially in Orville and Miranda, but also in secondary characters such as the old town physician Bill Starbuck, Miranda's sweet six year-old son Cray and Orville's passionate, impulsive pre-teen niece Amy. Even characters who made brief appearances, such as the flighty, ethereal Celestina Polo, and Starbuck's dutiful wife Babette were vivid to the reader through Orville's narration.

Orville was a man full of turmoil. His love life. His career. His relationship with his deceased mother. All his life he ran away instead of staying. Because of the terms of his mother's will, he is forced to stay. In Columbia, that is.

The town of Columbia is a character in and of itself. A town so unbelievably self-destructive that it borders on hilarious. Orville stayed under duress. Thanks to his mother's will, he stood to gain almost a million dollars by staying for at least one year and thirteen months. Could he learn to love, or at least accept his hometown. Would he?

Then there was his relationships with women. I wouldn't say I didn't like Celestina Polo, but I thought she was wrong for Orville. Miranda, on the other hand, I not only adored but completely sympathized with. It was difficult to watch Miranda and Orville's relationship deteriorate.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Angelwolfe on May 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
When I first received this book, I wondered what I was thinking. I read science fiction and fantasy. I prefer dragons and spaceships to real world based fiction. With the exception of classic literature, my reading leans that way. Upon reading, I can definitively put this book, Spirit of the Place, in the Modern Classic category. I put books in this category when I have a hard time putting them down. And thus having a hard time waiting to pick them back up again.

When Dr. Orville Rose is informed of his mother's passing back home, he is living a nearly Utopian life in Europe with a yoga instructor and happily engaging himself as a physician in a high end spa. His mother has left him a good sized inheritance, but a condition comes with it. He reluctantly returns home to a town he never wanted to return to. He must stay in his mother's house for a year and thirteen days. To occupy his time, he assists the town doctor. During the time he spends there, he finds something he's been lacking (but thought he had) in his Utopian life.

As the imposed time draws near, he struggles to choose between two vastly different lives. I enjoyed following him on his journey of the soul. Even though it's been a while since i sat down and read Spirit of the Place, but it has stayed with me. Dr. Rose' journey into true healing of his spirit.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Germer on September 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully written, multi-layered novel about a doctor who comes to terms with his past by returning to his hometown--a town "plagued by breakage." As he confronts his childhood pain, Dr. Orville Rose also discovers his inner goodness and strength, and starts to see the same in the difficult characters in is life, including a childhood bully and his deceased mother who floats by when he needs her the least. Dr. O's patients become the direct beneficiaries of his inner transformation.

Sam Shem, a Harvard psychiatrist, weaves a trail of human pain into a tale of faltering, and ultimately, illuminated healing. His main character is a modern-day Bodhisattva, bringing light into dark places. Although the book is published in the Kent State University series on literature and medicine, it seems to be equally at home in Buddhist psychology. It's a deeply compassionate book and I feel like a better person for having read it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By B. F. Wong on May 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book because James Fallows recommended it on his blog. I read to the end because of the characters. I didn't mind that not every mystery was solved, not every misunderstanding was set right. That's how it is in real life. The sense of breakage in place, people, and relationships was delicately interweaved. All the famous people connected to the city of Columbia, New York -- especially the contemporary ones like Ollie North -- gave me a fact checking itch, but not enough to scratch. The ending was perfect.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Prosser Gifford on October 13, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Drawing again on autobiographical details, Shem takes us back to the Hudson valley where he grew up. It is a tale of a country doctor that draws you in--right up to the final page.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kindler on July 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read both of Shem's previous books. Of course it is almost impossible to surpass an iconic book like House of God. That book was funny, smart and so true to life, as a medical student it should be required reading. h
His second book was not nearly as good but the story line was plausible. This book's plot is ridiculous, implausible and boring. I forced myself through it, skimming all the way, hoping to detect a bit of the wit of House of God. it was quite predictable and I was relieved when it was finally over. I would not recommend this book to anyone.
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