cover image Contact Wounds: A War Surgeon's Education

Contact Wounds: A War Surgeon's Education

Jonathan Kaplan, . . Grove, $25 (278pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1800-4

Following his debut memoir, The Dressing Station, (a New York Times Notable book) Kaplan returns with more tales of struggling to save lives in the most unforgiving conditions. Kaplan grew up in apartheid-torn South Africa. While at medical school, as he was hitchhiking from Cape Town to see his girlfriend in Johannesburg, he had his first encounter with a mass casualty, helping more than a dozen members of a family injured when their truck ran off the road. From there, he traveled to war-torn Eritrea, Kurdistan, Angola and finally Baghdad, performing surgery in hospitals consisting of two tents and a stretcher. Kaplan is a clinical narrator: he doesn't analyze the disturbing events he relates or try to give meaning to suffering; he simply tells stories with the rawness and incomprehensibility of life itself. His words transport the reader to places most would fear to go. And like those he treats, he is caught in the middle of conflicts he can't understand. In the wake of the war in Iraq, where humanitarian aid workers have been attacked, Kaplan reflects that aid efforts in war zones have been forever changed. But despite the increased danger, he says he will continue to battle the true enemy in every war: death. Agent, Bill Hamilton for A.M. Heath (U.K.) . (Nov.)