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My Own Country: A Doctor's Story

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4.20  ·  Rating details ·  10,421 ratings  ·  839 reviews
By the bestselling author of Cutting for Stone, a story of medicine in the American heartland, and confronting one's deepest prejudices and fears.
Nestled in the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee, the town of Johnson City had always seemed exempt from the anxieties of modern American life. But when the local hospital treated its first AIDS patient, a crisis that had onc
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Paperback, 432 pages
Published April 25th 1995 by Vintage (first published 1994)
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Lori
May 31, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2008
Am I a book snob?

Because I'm finding that as I read a book, like this one, I keep asking myself why someone would waste so many words to say, essentially, nothing that sheds light on the story.

Why do I need to know every time the author got in his car to go somewhere, that he turned right on such and such street, then left onto that highway, and then there was a bend in the road...

For real?

I understand that he was trying to give the reader a sense of 'His Country,' but it became excessive. He o
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Ellie
My Own Country: A Doctor's Story is Abraham Verghese's (author of the fictional Cutting for Stone) moving account of his years as a doctor in Tennessee, specializing in working with patients with AIDS. Verghese recounts his growth from a relative innocent first encountering AIDS to an exhausted veteran who has to come to terms with the fact that he could not save his patients. The years are the mid- to late-1980s and AZT is only beginning to be used at the end of this time and no other drugs hav ...more
Shelah
May 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone was one of the best books I read last year. I'm not sure if it was my very favorite, but it was in the top two or three, for sure.

Although Cutting for Stone was fiction, My Own Country is a memoir, focusing on the years when Verghese, born in Africa to Indian parents, is a young infectious diseases doctor in rural Eastern Tennessee, right at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. As one of the only physicians in the area willing and able to take care of the men
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Sharon Metcalf
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Dr Verghese - Eloquent, extraordinarily compassionate, likeable and highly intelligent person. This book exceeded all expectations.

Abraham Verghese goes from strength to strength when it comes to impressing me.    I first became a fan when I read the Foreword he wrote for Paul Kalanithi's memoir When Breath Becomes Air.    This was soon topped by his fabulous novel Cutting For Stone - one of my all time favourites.    Having such high expectations I briefly worried whether I might be disappointe
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Melisa
Apr 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book pretty much fits the bill for my absolute favorite type of reading: passionate people writing beautifully about whatever they care most about and the way in which they are transformed by that caring. Also I love a good medical memoir so I hit the jackpot with this one.

I looked for this book after reading Verghese's Cutting for Stone recently. That novel was brilliant and, as I didn't want it to end, I went looking for more of Verghese's writing. It would be hard for me to say which b
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Linda
Nov 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
If I could give it a 6 I would...stories and passion from the frontlines of the AIDs epidemic in areas that were unknown and uncovered, not the big cities, but the small towns where there was much less support and recognition...but then maybe not.

"I have lived for five years in a culture of disease, a small island in a sea of fear. I have seen many things there. I have seen how life speeds up and heightens in climates of extreme pain and emotion. It is hard to live in these circumstances, despit
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Phyllis
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In the 1980's when HIV was spreading around the country a young doctor by the name of Abraham Verghese started his practice in a community in Tennessee. Very little was known about HIV at the time and there was no cure and only minimal treatment. Verghese is an Indian doctor who grew up in Africa and studied in Boston. When he came to Johnson City, TN and I am quoting the blurb on the back of the book. . ."as a doctor unique in his abilities; as an outsider who could talk to people suspicious of ...more
Linda
Aug 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Okay - so my brother Greg recommended I read Abraham Verghese's "Cutting For Stone". Since Greg has excellent literary taste I looked up the book and recommended it to many of my friends. However, I was "afraid" to read it because I thought it might make me sad. So instead I decided to read his non-fiction account of treating AIDs in Tennessee during the 1980s, "My Own Country". Cause yeah that wouldn't be sad! My gracious friend Molly had a copy of the book which she lent to me. I just finished ...more
Rachael
Aug 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Wow - a fascinating account of one doctor's experience during ground-zero of the AIDS epidemic. Incredibly well-written and personal, Verghese paints a captivating picture of the utter fear, devastation, and hope in the early days of AIDS.

A specialist in infectious diseases, Verghese did not anticipate that his life in rural Johnson City, Tennessee would soon be consumed by AIDS. The disease was thought to be a problem of the big cities on the coasts. And of the gay community, which was nearly
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Ron
Apr 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
The author of this book is an Indian doctor, working at a hospital in Johnson city, Tennessee, at the start of the AIDS epidemic. His account is of being the only infectious diseases physician in a rural community at a time when the first wave of HIV-positive gay men were returning to their hometowns from New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. His observations of the men and women who come to him for care, and the relationships that have grown between them, are insightful and vivid. Though he ...more
Celia
This is a beautiful book, full of caring and empathy.

While I work on my review, please read as many of my highlights/notes as you are able.
Reid
Aug 02, 2009 rated it liked it
This is a fine book about the early days of the HIV epidemic, and how perplexed and conflicted many were as they came to terms with their own feelings and reactions to the disease and those who contracted it. However, it also is a book in the longstanding tradition of HIV books that are self-congratulatory, maudlin, and self-pitying. The irony of HIV has often been that, while pleading for it to be treated as just another disease in order to normalize those who suffer from it rather than margina ...more
Ali M
Dec 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this book immediately after finishing "Cutting For Stone" because I was so impressed with Verghese's writing and by the man too.

Reading "My Own Country" you can see clearly how much Verghese's own life story informed the story of his novel - particularly the life of an immigrant doctor in the second or third tier hospitals and rural areas of the United States. You can also see how Verghese was able to write so eloquently in his novel when he writes about his connection with his patients i
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Diane
Aug 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I decided to read this book for two reasons. One, I really enjoyed Verghese’s “Cutting for Stone,” and two, a medical student (now MD) friend that I highly respect told me this book had influenced his career choices. The book was full of complexity for me and I related to the story on many levels. I have a long-standing interest in public health, so the story of AIDS coming to a rural southern town was quite powerful. The story covers about 1982-1990 so AIDS was not understood and basically untr ...more
Ben
Aug 12, 2012 rated it liked it
I wasn't expecting much literary prowess from a book I was required to read for medical school, but was pleasantly surprised by Dr. Verghese's seminal account of treating AIDs patients in 1980s rural Tennessee. His accounts delve into so many of the nuanced issues surrounding medicine: patient-doctor relationships, cultural values, work-life balance, but what makes him a good writer (and no doubt a good physician as well) is his painstaking attention to detail. He puts you into his head during t ...more
Amy
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent narrative of a young doctor who -- by virture of his infectious diseases specialty, his "foreign-ness" and his deep and utter compassion for others--becomes the "AIDS expert" in a small rural setting of East Tennessee in the mid-1980s, when the number of HIV-infected patients begins to rise. Though it's a nonfiction account, it reads like a novel while providing a fascinating and unflinching look at how AIDS affected the gay community, how it made its way from the urban centers into th ...more
David Guy
Sep 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I’m full of admiration for this book, and there’s no single reason. It’s an AIDS memoir, told from the standpoint of the doctor who cared for the patients, and who just happened to be a gifted writer who would later write a bestselling novel. It tells the story of the patients in a completely sympathetic way, even though Verghese arrived at this job knowing little about AIDS or about gay culture. The way Verghese is honest about his initial naiveté is endearing, and he shows the same kind of hon ...more
Rae
Apr 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Dr. Verghese earned four of my stars for his fictional Cutting for Stone, but I only offer three for this memoir. He tells of his years as a rural Tennessee internist, in the era of the discovery of HIV. Verghese shares many vignettes of the HIV patients he managed and the resistance and fear often encountered in the community.

The story is historically interesting, as HIV/AIDs is discovered in urban centers and migrates silently to small-town America. Certainly Verghese performed an enormous ser
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Shannon
Feb 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I read this book after reading "Cutting for Stone;" I wanted to know more about the author who had penned one of my favorite books and what his real life was like. What I found was an intriguing story of what it is like to be an infectious disease doctor treating patients for which there is no known cure. Verghese struggled with all sorts of questions: How do you help prepare your patients for the inevitable? How do you council them through the ostracism of friends and family? How do you change ...more
Carolinecarver
Feb 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Verghese is amazing...great writer, albeit a little detail overloaded--sometimes you get the feeling he is practicing his writing. Be that as it may, he is clearly a caring doctor on the cusp of what will become the AIDS epidemic of our time. Takes place in Tennessee where the first cases of AIDS reach his rural community, and the sense of place is as real as the people he treats. Insightful, sympathetic and exhausting all at once.
Emmi
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, india
This is the story of the author's work with AIDS patients in eastern Tennessee in the 1980's. It was a horrifying time, when there were no treatments (and then finally there was AZT) and when family, friends, clergy, and medical professionals shunned HIV positive people and people with AIDS. The author describes some of his patients, his relationship with them, and how being "the AIDS doctor" impacted his personal and professional life. It was a good and difficult read.
Wanda
Mar 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
After reading and loving Cutting for Stone, I had high expectations for this earlier Verghese book. I was frankly a bit disappointed.
I still want Verghese to be my physician. He is compassionate, courageous and he loves his chosen vocation. He also is intelligent and knows how to write well. But this was not Cutting for Stone. It is not nearly as well written, although it may be unfair too compare the two. CFS was a novel and this book is a memoir; also CFS was written after My Own Country and
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Mary
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read Cutting for Stone by this same author several years ago... I had heard about this memoir and several of my friends recommended it... but too little time... too many books ..and I tend to read more fiction than non fiction... so.. Book Club picked this to read and I started it... It is an amazing book. He writes so beautifully about his thinking and his feelings... and about his patients..... I could not put the book down for the last few days... It is about a young Indian doctor who comes ...more
Chrystal
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
4.50 stars

Abraham Verghese has accomplished something wonderful in this very personal account of his experiences with the first AIDS patients that he treated as an infectious disease physician in eastern Tennessee in the mid 1980's. He bares his own soul about how difficult it was to see his patients sicken and die, about how devastating it was for them, their families, and himself to have to face the reality that there was no cure. He expresses his emotions of feeling like he was in a war zone
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Jenny
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
This is one of the most compassionate and enlightening books I have read. It's a memoir of Dr. Verghese's years spent in rural Tennessee as an internist and infectious disease Doctor during the height of the AIDS epidemic. It is touching and honest. The stories of his patients are written with such insight and care ... it made me feel as if I knew each of them as well as he did. This is the same author of one of my favorite novels of all time - Cutting For Stone. Highly recommend this memoir!
Melissa
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was such a clear story. It was spectacular to read through the thoughts of a physician... How he thinks, reacts, and connects with patients. A really nice story of the challenge and isolation of HIV, as well. And this challenge was nicely framed against the challenge if being an outsider in a community. This will stay on my bookshelf... Though that is really selfish because I want to share it with so many people.
Becca
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An awesome story of his time learning about treating AIDS at the beginning of the epidemic in a small town. I thought it was an interesting story, both the author's experiences, and the stories of his patients that he also chronicles. It's definitely dated (published early-mid 1990's), but I think it tells important stories. There are a lot more stories about the AIDS epidemic in the big cities, so I'm glad this is out there too.
Peggy
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Written by the author of Cutting for Stone, this is his true story as an infectious disease physician in Johnson City TN at the start of the AIDS epidemic. I found it fascinating. Perhaps it's because I live in the region or because I lived in SF during those years. It's hard to remember now how scary that time was--how the disease defined...well, a lot of things and groups of people. It's not an easy read--I found I could only read a small chunk at a time but I am really glad I did.
Mary
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although this is Abraham Verghese's first book, I read this after his book "Cutting for Stone", which I loved! This book is written as if it is a novel and is very lyrical. At times, I felt there was a lot that could have been eliminated in his descriptions. You really get to know his patients and empathize with what he faced in working with his patients in Johnson City, Tennessee. Well-written and informative.
Areedy
Mar 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
After loving Cutting for Stone, I decided to buy Verghese other books. This is a frank description of his history treating AIDS patients in rural Kentucky as the outbreak was unfolding. The characters come to life and you can really get a sense of their struggles and what life was like for them. On to The Tennis Partner next!
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My Own Country 5 54 Apr 07, 2013 11:52AM  

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Abraham Verghese, MD, MACP, is Professor for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Senior Associate Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine.

Born of Indian parents who were teachers in Ethiopia, he grew up near Addis Ababa and began his medical training there. When Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed, he completed his training at Madras Medical Co
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