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Ten Days

Although Anna and Jake Campbell interact with the world in very different ways, she as a cautious worrier and he as an optimistic realist, they successfully navigate the everyday problems that percolate through their marriage until the night their young son becomes ill. Anna has a bad cold and longs for the peace of evening and Jake, an orthopedic surgery resident, spends the night at the hospital, taking care of other people’s sick wives and children. As a result of their irreversible, achingly regrettable inactions, Anna and Jake face losing their child.

Anna, who works part time as a linguist, is devoted to her two young children—Chris, who irritates her with his friskiness, and Eddie, the placid baby that everybody adores. With Eddie’s illness, she is both crushed with guilt and embittered with blame toward Jake. As she withdraws into her distorted perceptions, she becomes increasingly unable to trust the medical system that is as familiar to her husband as a stormy spring evening.

Like many surgical residents, Jake has blindly embraced professional commitment to the point that he is wedded to his medical responsibilities and a relative stranger to the concerns of his family. Once Eddie’s diagnosis becomes clear, Jake struggles to orient himself to his new position in the medical sphere – parent of a seriously ill baby – about which he has no understanding, no patience, and no control. In his misery, he reaches to a former lover for solace.

If she weren’t the widow of a no-good guy who left her nothing but debts and two bossy adult daughters, Rose Marie wouldn’t have to run a day care home to support herself. Rather, she and Beefeater, her wine-loving Jack Russell terrier, would lead leisurely lives loading the bird feeders and weeding the petunias. Two cases of meningitis among the children in her day care bring her nose to nose with the public health system and threaten to close down her business.

Illness, particularly that of a child, is heartbreakingly cruel but Anna, Jake, their healthy son Chris, and Rose Marie, like most people who face daunting life challenges, find their way.

 

 

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JANET GILSDORF spent her childhood along the banks of the Red River of the North, whose murky water flows backwards—from little puddles in South Dakota up to Lake Winnipeg. It was both the land of the prairie wind, which roared across the plains with only a rare shelter belt or grain elevator to slow it down, and a place of raw, stark beauty and unsurpassed simplicity. Growing up in North Dakota introduced her to an endless series of adventures. She pedaled her bike all over town and out into the countryside. She and her friend Mary organized neighborhood parades and plays, and, one summer afternoon, they tried to dig to China. During the long, dark winters they built snow forts and, on the coldest days, made paper clothes for their paper dolls, guided by the fashions in the Sears, Roebuck, and Co. catalogue. Her first love affair occurred in kindergarten. She fell desperately, passionately in love with school and wanted to live forever in Horace Mann Elementary, where Miss Brown’s room would be her bedroom, she would have her own private bathroom (the girls’ lavatory), and the library and its books would be hers alone. Learning to read opened a world of new places and ideas to her. In fact, she never really left school. After high school, college, and then medical school and medical training in Nebraska, California, and Minnesota, with stops in Alaska and an Indian reservation spanning the Idaho-Nevada border, she landed at the University of Michigan as a faculty member, where she continues to love school. As a scientist, she pursues the secrets of nature and in her field of infectious diseases, those secrets are microscopic in size yet powerful in impact. As a pediatrician, she counsels her young patients and their families during their finest, as well as their worst possible, moments. As a teacher, she guides young physicians and scientists through their journeys toward successful lives and careers. As a literary writer, she integrates the scientific, medical, and personal truths she witnesses and make emotional sense of their meaning.