Antonia Redmond is a young Harvard-trained doctor who has returned to the East African village where she was raised by American parents to establish a medical practice. Her efforts are frustrated by inadequate supplies and funding, an under-trained staff, and patients whose superstitions and mistrust make diagnosis and treatment difficult. She deals daily with a conflict of cultures, trying to maintain her medical methods and standards in an environment where she competes with the authority of native healers.

Esther, daughter of a native healer who has some familiarity with and respect for Western medicine, envies and longs for Antonia’s Western training and attaches herself to her as a disciple. In her encounters with patients, Esther finds that she has an inexplicable gift for healing which baffles her as well as Antonia and complicates their already tenuous relationship. Esther’s gift forces Antonia to reexamine some of her most basic assumptions about what constitutes healing.


The novel raises complex questions about the cultural, religious, and institutional contexts of medicine in a delicately drawn portrayal of relationships among characters whose divergent frames of reference complicate trust and understanding. One of the questions the novel addresses is not only how to heal the body, but how to heal the breach between cultures. In the development of the friendship between the American doctor and the African healer these questions are worked out in concrete particulars that fully honor both the pain and the hope involved in authentic cross-cultural dialogue.



Place Published

New York