Three young men from different backgrounds have graduated from medical schools and become surgical fellows at a leading teaching hospital in Boston. They learn to become surgeons, to communicate with patients and families, and to be observed and appraised by their peers and professors on daily rounds. And each month—sometimes with dry mouth and rapid pulse—each attends the meeting of the Mortality Conference, known to all as the Death Committee, which examines every patient loss for possible human error, in order to prevent it from happening again. How the Death Committee affects and is affected by the lives, loves, and ambitions of three new doctors is the theme of this intriguing and profoundly moving novel.
Yonah Toledano, the 15-year-old son of a celebrated Spanish silversmith, has seen his father and brother die during these terrible days - victims whose murders go almost unnoticed in a time of mass upheaval. Trapped in Spain by circumstances, he is determined to honor the memory of his family by remaining a Jew.
On a donkey named Moise, Yonah begins a meandering journey, a young fugitive zigzagging across the vastness of Spain. Toiling at manual labor, he desperately tries to cling to his memories of a vanished culture. As a lonely shepherd on a mountaintop he hurls snatches of almost forgotten Hebrew at the stars, as an apprentice armorer he learns to fight like a Christian knight. Finally, as a man living in a time and land where danger from the Inquisition is everywhere, he deals with the questions that mark his past. How he discovers the answers, how he finds his way to a singular and strong Marrano woman, how he achieves a life with the outer persona of a respected Old Christian physician and the inner life of a secret Jew, is the fabric of this novel. The Last Jew is a glimpse of the past, an authentic tale of high adventure, and a tender and unforgettable love story. In it, Noah Gordon utilizes his greatest strengths, and the result is remarkable and moving.
Dr. Robert Judson Cole travels from his ravaged Scotland homeland, through the operating rooms of Boston, to the cabins of frontier Illinois. In the wilderness he befriends the starving remnants of the Sauk tribe, who have fled their reservation. In the process, he absorbs their culture and learns native remedies that enrich the classical medical education he received at Edinburgh University. He marries a remarkable settler woman he had saved from illness. The details of how their deaf son manages to become a physician also, despite his handicap, and the story of how the Cole family is sucked into the bloody vortex of the Civil War and survives, makes an exceptional reading experience.