cover image The Leper

The Leper

Steve Thayer, . . North Star, $24.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-87839-266-7

Who wants to read a novel about a leper? Anyone who wants to be enlightened, educated and entertained by bestseller Thayer's (The Weatherman ) unusual but awe-inspiring hero. After stumbling on a French-German leper village while serving as a marine captain during WWI, John Severson takes a healthy little girl to safety while his near-mutinous men are ordered to return to the front. After an inquiry ends favorably, Severson returns home to St. Paul, Minn., where he becomes a high school math teacher and is secretly engaged to his favorite student. His happiness shatters after a routine medical check identifies him as a leper. In the wake of the Spanish flu epidemic, this means forced quarantine at Louisiana's Witch Tree leprosarium, which Thayer describes in disturbing and sometimes lurid detail. After escaping from Witch Tree, Severson winds up as the sheriff of Hawaii's Molokai leper colony, a relentless crusader for Hansen's disease sufferers, whose rights as U.S. citizens were too long compromised by fear. This book deserves a wide readership. (Sept.)