Our Human Hearts: A Medical and Cultural Journey

Carter III, Albert Howard

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Case Studies with Essays)

Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin
  • Date of entry: Apr-04-2006


Howard Carter very skillfully weaves together the various meanings that the heart holds for us--biological, medical, psychological, cultural, and spiritual. He does so through four patients that he interviewed when he was appointed to a distinguished professorship in medical humanities in a joint program of St. Patrick Hospital and the University of Montana, in Missoula.

Each of the sections of the book focuses on one of the patients who suffers, respectively, from a prototypical heart problem: a young man with congenital defects who undergoes successful surgery; a middle-aged woman with a viral illness who learns how to live with her chronic heart condition; a middle-aged man whose blocked coronary arteries are cleared, as is the stress in his life; and an old man who turns to spiritual matters as he faces heart failure.

What contribute significantly to the uniqueness of this book are the essays that Carter provides at the end of each Patient Section. They are the vehicles for the synthesis of the patient stories, the scholarly look at how "we have largely lost the anchoring image of the heart" in American society, and his very poignant personal reflections about life in (or at least near) the wilderness of Montana. (See Solid Footing, Higher Ground -Third Essay as an excellent example of his skillful and moving writing.)


I may be somewhat biased because this book has been published as part of the Literature and Medicine Series of books that I co-edit for Kent State University Press. But I will confess, that even on my third read through (done mostly at the dining room table in my home) I continued to find wonderfully wrought sentences that I would read aloud to anyone (and sometimes no one other than myself) within hearing distance.


Kent State Univ. Press

Place Published

Kent, Ohio



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