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Mount Misery


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About the Author

Samuel Shem (Stephen Bergman, M.D.) graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College and earned a Ph.D. in physiology from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He graduated from Harvard Medical School. He is the author of the novels The House of God and Fine and seven plays, including, with Janet Surrey, Bill W. and Dr. Bob. He is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and the Stone Center, Wellesley College. He lives with his wife and five-year-old daughter near Boston.


Harvard Medical School professor Stephen Bergman penned House of God (about a bunch of sleep-deprived interns) under the pseudonym Samuel Shem‘and sold over a million copies. Now he's turned his attention to a psychiatric hospital.

"An engrossing read...Darkly entertaining."
"Fueled with manic energy and hilarious characters."
"Successfully parodies the counterintuitive, Alice-in-Wonderland quality that can characterize psychoanalytic theorizing."

Combining his experience as a psychiatrist with the literary toolbox of absurdist comedy, Shem sets in motion a carnival of fascinating secrets and terrible abuses of authority on the New England campus of Mount Misery psychiatric hospital, where the doctors are clearly much sicker than the patients. This superbly incisive and witty sequel to Shem's bestselling The House of God follows young Dr. Roy Basch as he proudly starts his residency at prestigious Mount Misery‘only to discover a maze of pharmaceutical, emotional and physical tortures ranging from hucksterism to rape. The tension rises as Basch reels through one terrifying, brainwashing rotation after another, with each rotation supervisor insisting that Basch apply a different technique to his patients, who ironically struggle to weather their doctor's inexplicable mood swings and changes in approach. If the tone is light, Shem is nevertheless serious about his targets. Insurance companies and HMOs come in for a beating, whether they're consigning suicidal patients to voice-mail jail or dictating cost-cutting (and brain-damaging) pharmaceutical treatment. Craven doctors lust after drug-company kickbacks, and a few perverted practitioners of Freudian psychoanalysis lust after everything and everyone. Even when the book weakens a little (as in the too tidy ending), Shem's comic energy and deep understanding of mental illness make for riveting reading. Major ad/promo; author tour. (Mar.) FYI: Samuel Shem is the pen name of Stephen Bergman, who is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and maintains a private psychiatric practice.

YA‘Roy Basch, protagonist of House of God (Dell, 1981), has survived his internship and now begins his three-year training at the aptly named Mount Misery, a posh New England psychiatric hospital. Things get off to an ominous start when his mentor, a renowned therapist in the field of depressive disorders, kills himself. This is just the beginning of a year filled with disaster. Employing gallows humor, Basch and his fellow residents confront bureaucratic nonsense in a manner reminiscent of Richard Hooker's MASH. The tone then becomes more like that of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as patients are assaulted by the cruel words and manipulations of the powerful attendings. Shem's novel confronts some powerful themes‘sexual abuse, psychosis, greed, depression, suicide‘and counters them with examples of the very best the human spirit has to offer. The field of psychiatry is unflinchingly held under a microscope and its failings, limitations, and successes are relentlessly catalogued. With such ferocious intensity, this lengthy novel will not appeal to all teens, but those who persevere will find that Mount Misery's "Laws" and characters will live on in their imaginations for some time to come.‘Carol DeAngelo, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA

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