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My Own Country

About the Book

My Own Country

The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading of Abraham Verghese's My Own Country. We hope they will enrich your understanding of a book that is rich in themes for stimulating group discussion.

In My Own Country, Abraham Verghese, a young Indian doctor born and educated in Ethiopia, tells of the four years he spent in a Tennessee town as a specialist in infectious diseases. His story begins in 1985, when he arrives in Johnson City, Tennessee, a quiet town in a mountainous region. At that time, Johnson City's inhabitants had heard about AIDS, but saw it purely as a big-city problem, and had no idea that the disease could invade their own community, a "typical" Southern town with little experience of illegal intravenous drug use or overt homosexuality. But no community, as this book eloquently demonstrates, is immune to AIDS, and the disease had already made its way to Johnson City, silently infecting a number of people. By 1989, Verghese was caring for more than eighty HIV-positive patients; unlike most specialists, who focused only upon their areas of expertise, he was the patients' primary care provider. And because the nature of the illness forces the doctor to confront and deal with intimate, private issues, Verghese found himself becoming intensely involved with the unique personal story of each patient's life. Verghese shows us the patients' struggle to deal with their illness, and vividly shows how their loved ones cared for them, even as both the patients and their families had to deal with societal prejudice. While some patients gave in to the disease, many found that being diagnosed as HIV-positive was not the end of their lives but the beginning of a new existence which, because of its precariousness, was more intense and far more precious.

Caught up in these dramas, Verghese found himself drifting dangerously away from his wife, who was fearful of AIDS and felt shut out by her husband's preoccupation with his patients' lives. Verghese's attempts to save his marriage and his simultaneous search for a home, for his "own country," finally lead him away from the Tennessee he has grown to love, and where he had hoped after years of wandering to put down roots at last. But though Verghese must move on, in a spiritual sense he does find his "own country"--in his vocation as a healer. My Own Country, while it incorporates the stories of many patients, is primarily the story of a doctor and his very personal journey.

My Own Country
by Abraham Verghese

  • Publication Date: April 25, 1995
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0679752927
  • ISBN-13: 9780679752929