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The Spirit of the Place Hardcover – June 15, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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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, MD, PhD (pen name of Stephen Bergman), is the author of several books of fiction, including the bestseller The House of God. He is a doctor, novelist, playwright, and activist. A Rhodes Scholar, he was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School for three decades and founded the Bill W. and Dr. Bob Project in the Division on Addictions at Harvard Medical School.
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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: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,650,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Totally different than the "House of God" because it is about a single doctor who has finished his school & training rather than the group of interns & residents. Interesting to follow his mind set as he goes through life.
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Having been a totally committed fan of the 'House of God', I was expecting something slightly different when I downloaded this book. Dr Shem has certainly matured as a writer and his insight into the psyche and behaviour patterns of medical practitioners is profound. While almost totally lacking in the humour and cynicism that was the hallmark of HoG, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found myself frequently wondering how I would have responded to the challenges that confronted our 'hero'. While I do not practice in the USA I have to say that as a profession we doctors are united by far more than will ever divide us - the Mark 1 Human Spirit. I commend this book to very medical practitioner who seeks to gain a little bit of insight into their values, beliefs and practice.
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More thoughtful, quieter, less crazy, but every bit as evocative and thought-provoking as the classic House of God and its followup, Mount Misery. A few recognizable characters (the dentist makes a small appearance) but this one is at some distance from the MBH and the BMS. I didn't expect to love it so much.
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