Dr. Robert Weiss passes through the town of Sankt Vero in the Tirol and rents a room from the Lukasser family. During the night, the Lukasser's son, Niki, develops acute appendicitis; the visiting doctor operates right there on the kitchen table, saving the boy's life. Years later, when war rages in Europe, the Jewish doctor returns to Sankt Vero and knocks on the Lukasser's door. He tells of soldiers forcing men, women, and children into railroad cars, and how he himself--he who had saved Niki years before--needs asylum.

To hide Dr. Weiss, Mr. Lukasser boards him up in a small room in the back of the hayloft, a space one meter wide and three meters high. For two years, the doctor exists in this box. Niki and his friend, a blind girl named Sigi, bring Dr. Weiss food once a day and, for ten minutes or so, they stay and talk. Sustained by Niki and Sigi's lives--the stories of their discoveries of sexuality, cruelty, and love--the doctor survives.

Although Sigi is blind, she has the insight to recognize and try to alleviate the doctor's growing depression by encouraging him to tell his own stories. It is through these stories and through the doctor's observation of Sigi and Niki's blossoming adolescence and struggles with morality that we experience both the doctor's confinement and the powerful conflicts and transformations that rage behind the doors of Sankt Vero.


Author Thomas Moran is a master of small spaces. In his second novel, The World I Made for Her, the narrator is a man on a respirator confined to a hospital bed; here Moran traps a physician, as if he were a patient in bed, to the narrow dimensions of a walled-in box, and the physician becomes the still center around which everyone and everything in the story revolves.

It is essential that the man in the small space, the character juxtaposed to Sigi the blind girl and Niki the adolescent boy, be a physician--if he were not, the questions this novel asks would not be as vast: Who is the observer, and who is observed? How does memory intersect with lived experience? What motivates any individual to save the life of another? And what, in the end, is the cost?



Place Published

New York



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