“An ingenious and appealing collection of linked stories” about archaic medical procedures, centuries of history, and one remarkable New York City family (Chicago Sun-Times).
In 1664, Dr. Olaf van Schuler flees the Old World and arrives in New Amsterdam with his lunatic mother, two bags of medical implements, and a carefully guarded book. He is the first in what will become a long line of peculiar physicians.
Plagued by madness and guided by an intense desire to cure human affliction, each generation of this unusual family is driven by the science of its day: spontaneous combustion, phrenology, animal magnetism, electrical shock treatment, psychosurgery, genetic research. As they make their way in the world, New York City is also evolving—from the dark and rough days of the seventeenth century to the towering, frenetic metropolis of today.
“Good literary fiction about science and scientists is hard to find, probably because it is so hard to write. . . . Fortunately there are some writers who bridge the gap well: Richard Powers, Andrea Barrett, and Alan Lightman, to name a few. And, now, Kirsten Menger-Anderson, whose debut, Doctor Olaf van Schuler’s Brain, offers sharp, entertaining, moving, and above all provocative stories about doctors and their work and raises profound questions about the role of medicine in American life. . . . Darkly funny, often sad, frequently frightening, and sometimes hopeful, they are the product of a gifted literary writer.” —The Boston Globe
“A fascinating kaleidoscope ride across generations of physicians and their patients . . . In this quirky, moving collection, Menger-Anderson illustrates the power of medicine—and family.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“An unforgettable literary experience.” —Mary Roach, author of Stiff