Sinclair Ross

Wikipedia Information

Showing 1 - 1 of 1 annotations associated with Ross, Sinclair

Sawbones Memorial

Ross, Sinclair

Last Updated: May-31-2023
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature /

Genre: Novel


Dr Hunter’s 75th birthday in April 1948 falls forty years to the day after he started practice in the little prairie town of Upward. He is retiring, moving away to the big city of Saskatoon, and the citizens have gathered to say fare-well. They celebrate in the patient lounge of the new hospital soon to open bearing the name of this long-time servant of all Upward’s needs--physical, mental, social. The doctor has donated his late wife’s piano and the board is already planning to sell it for much-needed cash. It tinkles softly, unwelcome songs are awkwardly sung, coffee and sandwiches served, while the crowd of locals chatters away sotto (and not so sottovoce, with each other and the doc. 

Over the course of the evening, forty years of memories unfold: births, couplings, deaths, desires, hostilities, random acts of kindness and of spite. Folks sidle up to the doc to express thanks for his support and wisdom. The pharmacist wishes he had prescribed more pills. The journalists want him to spill secrets for a feature article in the local rag. The minister engages him in a debate over the existence of God and the meaning of life—both of which the medic denies. Gossips watch, whispering to each other about the doctor’s imagined survival and his dead wife whose alleged frigidity justified his supposed numerous infidelities. 

Shopkeeper Sarah’s revisits her embarrassed memories of adolescent attraction, that ripened into adult affection and pleasure that the doctor has long treated her son Dunc with almost fatherly care, taking him and the big but isolated Ukrainian boy, Nick, on house calls. Home from overseas with an English war-bride and now running the store, Dunc presides over the evening, trying to smooth conflicting undercurrents. The gossips speak sweetly to the newcomer bride and behind her back predict the marriage will fail.

It emerges that the incoming young medic will be Nick, once mercilessly bullied as a “hunky kid” by a few shiftless bigots still languishing in Upward. They are convinced that he is returning to extract his revenge. The old doctor defends Nick in his final words and urges his patients to help the young successor. He knows that they can briefly come together in a crisis, but he scolds them for their chronic lack of charity to strangers and to each other.

View full annotation