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Lost in America


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About the Author

Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D., is the author of How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter. He is clinical professor of surgery at Yale, where he also teaches bioethics and medical history. In addition to his numerous articles for medical publications, he has written for The New Yorker, The New Republic, the New York Times, Time, and the New York Review of Books. He writes a regular column for The American Scholar entitled "The Uncertain Art." Dr. Nuland and his family live in Connecticut.


Conspicuously absent from Nuland's How We Die, a National Book Award winner in 1994, the author's father dominates this new memoir. In contrast to the graceful How We Die, this book appears conflicted, crowded, and emotion-laden, with Nuland allowing readers no distance from his discomfiting exploration of his relationship with his father, Meyer. Nuland describes his father's troubles as an immigrant from Bessarabia (between Russia and Romania) who struggled with unfulfilling, low-wage work and the early death of his wife and first son. He brings his father's voice to life by reproducing his heavily accented English and occasional use of Yiddish. The journey recounted is a personal and painful one, and Nuland's attempt is not to universalize this experience but to come to terms with it for his own understanding. Raw, personal autobiographies easily find their way to readers, and this book by Nuland, a departure from some of his better-known works, will attract a different audience. Larger public libraries will want to add this to their collections.-Audrey Snowden, GSLIS (student), Simmons Coll., Boston

"Riveting. . . . A classic second-generation immigrant memoir. . . . A great book, full of feelings and memories that ring true." --The New York Times Book Review

"A tale with universal resonance. . . unsparing, deeply felt and searching." --Los Angeles Times Book Review "Intensely attuned to small gestures of suffering and consolation, Nuland studies his family . . .with pained, humane attentiveness. A supremely gentle book." --San Francisco Chronicle "Remarkable. . . . A tragic portrait that is both terrible and beautiful in its clarity." --Seattle Times

In his late 30s and early 40s, National Book Award winner Nuland (How We Die) was gripped by a depression so unyielding to treatment he almost underwent a lobotomy (the procedure was halted by a young resident psychiatrist who refused to listen to his superiors). But as haunting as this beginning of Nuland's memoir is, it's eclipsed in power by the story he tells of his relationship with his father, an aging Jewish immigrant whose life was a series of family tragedies and illness. Avoiding the twin traps of nostalgia and emotional overkill, Nuland details, in beautiful, stark prose, his father's harsh life in America. Meyer Nudelman worked, and failed at, a variety of jobs and was broken by the death of his first child, the death of his wife and the near-fatal illness of another son. For him, America was never a land of opportunity, and his life sank into various debilitating physical ailments and unpredictable rages that inflicted terrible damage upon his son. The memoir's deep, shocking, emotional impact comes when Nuland, a student at Yale medical school, discovers by reading a textbook that his father's physical symptoms all indicated that he was suffering his whole adult life from tertiary syphilis. The shock of this discovery-which Meyer's doctors knew, but never told him-doesn't lead to an easy resolution. "In America" the author writes, "Meyer Nudelman was a man with no past," and by the end of the book readers realize that his dreams of a happier future were also impossible. Written with enormous empathy, yet without a hint of sentimentality, Nuland's memoir is both heartbreaking and breathtaking. (Jan.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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