Showing 11 - 20 of 114 annotations contributed by Belling, Catherine
The narrator, Anju, and her cousin, Arundhati (Runu for short) are both young married Indian women who are pregnant for the first time, due to give birth within a few days of each other. The difference is that Anju lives in the United States and Runu in India. They write letters to each other, and when the story begins, Anju is planning a special telephone call to Runu because this is the day they are both due to get the results of their amniocentesis.
As Anju anticipates the phone call, she provides information about both women. She grew up in a relatively affluent family in Calcutta, went to college, and moved to San Diego with her husband, Sunil. Runu was less wealthy, and married into a large and traditional Brahmin family in the provinces. Runu is strictly controlled by her mother-in-law.
Anju receives her test results: her baby, a boy, is healthy. But Runu is expecting a girl, and because of this her family decides that she should have an abortion. She is devastated, and is planning to run away. Anju encourages her, but Anju's husband becomes angry, arguing that perhaps Runu should be obedient and have the abortion.
They argue, but then Anju remembers the ultrasound earlier that day, when she saw her son for the first time, and realizes that Runu must have had the same experience, and like her would do anything to protect the fetus. The story ends with her planning to help Runu to come to America, and imagining, almost certainly unrealistically, the future of their children together.
Cosima Nolinas (Codi) trained as a physician, but decided during her residency to give up medicine. As the novel opens, she is returning to her hometown, Grace, Arizona, to teach high school biology and care for her physician father, Doc Homero, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Her younger sister, Hallie, has just left for Nicaragua to help with agricultural development. Codi's journey back to where she grew up reinforces a sense of aimlessness which she attributes to the death of her mother when she was three years old, to the miscarriage of an unwanted pregnancy when she was fifteen, and to her father's remoteness. She intends her stay to be temporary.
But gradually she is drawn into the community. She restarts a relationship with Loyd [sic] Peregrina, the Native-American father--though she never told him--of the child she lost in high school. She joins the town's struggle against a mining company that has polluted the town's water supply and now plans to dam the river. As her father's condition deteriorates, she learns more about the history of his connection with the town and, by examining the results of a life-long study he has done on a genetic anomaly affecting children born to second-generation inhabitants of Grace, she learns that her own hereditary background is far more deeply rooted in the town than she had known.
Codi's narrative is interspersed with her father's confused but illuminating memories of her childhood, and with the letters she receives from Hallie, who has always been the motivated and determined sister. When Hallie is kidnapped and then murdered by the contras, Codi's first response is to run away once more, but in laying her sister to rest and telling Loyd about their lost child, she realizes that she has found her home and--in her fierce and practical education of the new generation of Grace adolescents--her purpose.
This story is set in the 1950s. Gloria St. Clair's great grandmother, Great Mam, is a displaced Cherokee--one of the Bird Clan's "Beloved Women" who "keep track of things"--who moved from her tribal home in Tennessee to Kentucky with the white man whose children she bore. Gloria's father, a coal miner, decides that the family should take Great Mam back to Tennessee for a last visit before she dies.
The journey is a disaster, revealing that remnants of Cherokee life have been reduced to poverty and tawdry tourism. Gloria realizes, though, that Great Mam's heritage has survived, not in the place she came from, but in what she has passed on to her great granddaughter: Great Mam has given Gloria the nickname "Waterbug" after the creature that, according to Native American myth, retrieved the earth from the bottom of the sea, and in remembering this and all the other stories Great Mam told her, Gloria becomes the next one whose task is to retrieve the past, to "keep track of things."
David Lurie is a scholar of the English Romantic poets, now professor of communications in Cape Town in newly post-apartheid South Africa. He is fired in disgrace for sexual harassment after having an affair with one of his students, Melanie Isaacs, or raping her (our definition of the act is deliberately blurred until later). He goes to stay with his daughter, Lucy, who kennels dogs and grows flowers on a smallholding in the Eastern Cape, and he passes his time helping Lucy's friend, Bev, in the euthanasia and disposal of sick and unwanted dogs.
Then he and Lucy are attacked by three black men who arrive at the farm. They pour lighter fluid over him and set him on fire, and they gang-rape Lucy. One of the attackers is a relative of Lucy's neighbour, a black man named Petrus, and protected by him. Lucy refuses to press charges or to leave, but Lurie drives back to Cape Town.
On the way, he stops at the home of Melanie Isaacs and meets her father, who invites him to stay for dinner. He apologizes to her father, who asks him some difficult questions about forgiveness and about being in disgrace. There are parallels between him and Mr. Isaacs in relation to their respective raped daughters. In Cape Town Lurie finds that his house has been broken into and everything stolen.
When Bev calls him to say that Lucy is not well he goes back to the farm, where he discovers that she is pregnant as a result of the rape, has decided to keep the child, and intends to agree to Petrus's offer of marriage: if she becomes one of his wives, in name only, she will be allowed to stay on the farm (which he will now own) under his protection.
She resists all her father's objections. He finds a room in the town near her farm, continues to help Bev killing the dogs, and, while he awaits the birth of his grandchild, works on an opera he is writing, about the abandoned mistress of the poet Byron, who yearns for a time that is past.
Sarah (Whoopi Goldberg) is an African-American woman who runs a bookstore, the "African Queen," in San Francisco. She has an adolescent daughter, Zora (Nia Long), conceived with donor sperm after the death of Sarah's husband, Charlie. Zora believes she is Charlie's daughter until she discovers a discrepancy while learning about blood types in biology class. Sarah tells Zora about her conception and Zora, determined to find out the identity of her "real father," breaks into the computer records of the California Cryobank.
She discovers the name of the sperm donor, Halbert Jackson, and tracks him down, discovering that he is a white truck salesman (Ted Danson). She and Sarah are both horrified (Sarah had requested the sperm of a black man), as is Hal, but after some comic conflict, Sarah and Hal fall in love and Zora begins to think of Hal as her father. They then learn that there was a mix up in the records and Hal is NOT after all Zora's genetic father, but by this point they have nonetheless become a family.
Six childless women from the United States are in an unnamed Latin American country (filmed in Acapulco, Mexico), fulfilling a residence requirement while they wait to adopt babies. The owner of the hotel they stay in (Rita Moreno) and her brother, a lawyer, both make a profit from this delay. The film explores the experiences of the six women and of the people of the place from which their children will come, a place of which they see only a small part of the surface.
The Americans' stories are juxtaposed with that of a young woman who cleans the hotel rooms, who gave up her own baby for adoption "up north," and a pregnant fifteen-year-old middle class girl whose mother takes her to Miami, presumably for an abortion. The film also looks at the implications of political activism which is, for the men in the film, necessary but, for the women, appears to come at the cost of security and domestic stability.
The hotel owner's son criticizes the adoptions as a form of "Yankee cultural imperialism," yet even as we are persuaded by his view, we are swayed by the film's telling contrast between the futures offered by the American women and the lives of the city's glue-sniffing street children. The film ends with two of the women about to receive their adoptive children.
Yesterday (Leleti Khumalo) is a young woman living in a tiny rural town in Kwazulu province in South Africa with her six-year-old daughter, Beauty (Lihle Mvelase). Yesterday becomes ill and, after several failed attempts to be seen by the lone doctor at a clinic several hours' walk away, is diagnosed as HIV positive. At the doctor's urging, she travels to Johannesburg to find her husband (Kenneth Kambule), who works on the mines there, to tell him of her diagnosis and that he needs to be tested. He beats her viciously and sends her away.
Months later, he returns to the village, dying of AIDS. He has lost his job. She takes care of him. Rumors spread in the village that Yesterday's husband has "the virus." The people begin to avoid them both, and the (true) story is told of a young woman in a nearby village who, after moving to the city and then returning home with AIDS, was stoned to death by her people. There is no room for her husband at the hospital, so Yesterday builds a scrap metal hut outside the village and cares for him there until he dies.
At one point the doctor observes that Yesterday's body is resisting the disease well; she replies that it is not her body, but that "I have made up my mind: until my child goes to school I will not die."
When the new school year begins, Yesterday gives a delighted Beauty her school uniform, and the schoolteacher promises Yesterday that she will take care of Beauty. Yesterday watches as Beauty begins her first day at school and then walks home alone.
This novel is based on the facts of an actual hantavirus outbreak that took place in the southwestern US in 1993, retelling the events as medical mystery, as ghost story, and as meditation on the relationship between rationalist western medicine and the beliefs of local indigenous cultures.
Dr. Push Foster is part Choctaw and part white, raised in Oklahoma. He returns to Arizona as an Indian Health Services physician at the time an outbreak begins of what is later identified as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. Western medicine and traditional health beliefs and practices overlap in the investigation and response to the illness as it infects and kills Navajo people.
Querry presents us with a convincing epidemiological investigation into the virus, but also suggests an alternative, or complementary, etiology for the outbreak: an archaeologist has stolen a sacred stone from the Hopi people with the help of a Navajo witch, or shape-shifter, the title's "bad medicine" practitioner. This theft, the novel suggests, is the reason that only Navajo, and one white person (the archaeologist's partner) become ill.
The climax of the story is a showdown between the shape-shifter, a Hopi village headman, and the ghost of a woman killed trying to save her people from the 1805 massacre of Navajo by Spanish troops at Muerto Canyon. (The virus, when first identified, was named Muerto Canyon Virus.) This woman becomes a figure of both vengeance and reconciliation, an uneasy meeting of cultures that echoes and informs the work of Push Foster and his colleague, Sonny Brokeshoulder: both are men of Indian blood with a "white" upbringing and who return to their culture bearing Western medical training, but do not deny the traditional knowledge either.
Unlike most medical thrillers, this book does not offer reductive explanations and answers; instead, we are left with the certainty that traditional and western thinkers must collaborate, not only to care for patients, but to take care of the natural environment on which all our health depends.
Tessa Quayle, the young wife of a British civil servant in Kenya, is mysteriously murdered. Tessa, a lawyer, had been an outspoken human rights activist, and something of an embarrassment to her husband. But shaken from his marital and political complacency by her death and the rumors that quickly surround it, Justin Quayle sets out to solve the mystery and in doing so inherits her cause.
Tessa had discovered, as Justin now learns, that a new tuberculosis drug was being prematurely tested on Kenyan patients: clinical trials were effectively being carried out on the African population by the drug's giant pharmaceutical producer without the patients' knowledge or consent, but with the support and cover of a global corporation with African interests and of the British High Commission in Kenya. Lethal side effects and deaths were being concealed, the drug retitrated and retested in preparation for its safer and more lucrative release in the west in time for a predicted rise in incidence of multi-resistant strains of TB.
Justin, now a kind of rogue agent, uncovers the layers of sinister plotting to be expected in one of Le Carré's intelligence thrillers, but in the process we are led to consider, vividly, the interlocking roles of international biomedical research, postcolonial political interests, and global capital in determining the fates of impoverished, uneducated, and deeply vulnerable patients in developing countries--as well as the fates of those who try, often against all odds, to offer them the best available care. The novel also gives us, in Justin Quayle's odyssey, a moving study of desire, loss, regret, and, finally, outraged action.
Frank Eloff, the novel’s narrator, is a white doctor working at a hospital in the former capital of one of South Africa’s now-defunct independent homelands (rural areas set aside by the apartheid government for black "separate development"). The hospital, in its deserted and decaying city, is understaffed and understocked, and there are hardly any patients. Those who do arrive usually need to be taken elsewhere if they need any significant treatment. The homeland’s former leader, the Brigadier, has returned as a criminal gang leader to loot the place, and a white former army commander, now in the employ of the present government, is trying to capture him.
Frank moved to this place when promised directorship of the hospital (and in flight after his wife left him for his best friend), but the previous director has not left yet, and Frank is in a kind of personal and professional bureaucratic limbo. He has a sexual relationship with a black woman who runs a roadside souvenir stall. It is not quite prostitution, not quite a love affair: she is married, speaks little English, and Frank regularly gives her money.
A new doctor, Laurence Waters, arrives. He is fresh from medical school, sent to the hospital in order to complete the rural community service year required by the government of all new physicians. He and Frank become roommates and begin an uneasy friendship. Laurence is an idealist, planning to make heroic changes, but he misunderstands the complex balance of tolerance, cynicism and patience that characterize survival at the hospital, and his well-intentioned efforts, such as trying to end theft from the hospital and to establish a clinic in a local tribal village, lead to disaster. The novel ends with Frank appointed hospital director at last, and things returning to their depressingly ineffective "normality."