The Good Doctor

Susan Onthank Mates, Author University of Iowa Press $11.5 (123p) ISBN 978-0-87745-467-0
At the heart of this debut story collection, winner of the 1994 John Simmons Short Fiction Award, are men and women, many of them medical workers, struggling to be good parents, honorable workers and virtuous people. In ``Ambulance,'' a medical student is awakened to the frailty of life when she unexpectedly must escort a dying patient on a harrowing ambulance ride through the Bronx. In ``Sleep,'' a doctor and his wife practice tough love in order to treat their four-year-old daughter's insomnia. In the title story, a woman who once ran a clinic in Tanzania finds her new position at a Bronx hospital to be an even tougher moral battleground. And in ``These Days,'' the most poignant tale of the 12 presented here, an elderly doctor of infectious diseases confronts the age of AIDS. At times, Mates etches events only slightly or hatches contrived endings, and her writing can suffer from faux-Kerouac excess (``I was the American girl righteousness rolled off me a mighty stream I rose from my desk Peter Pan Collar angel wings....''), but the yearning of nearly all her characters to do the right thing gives the collection an appeal that makes it a kind of experimental complement to that current powerhouse of mainstream morality, William Bennett's The Book of Virtues. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1994
Release date: 11/01/1994
Show other formats
Paperback - 138 pages - 978-0-87745-612-4
Hardcover - 134 pages - 978-1-58729-143-2
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