A War Surgeon's Education
By Jonathan Kaplan
(Grove Press, Paperback, 9780802142788, 278pp.)
Publication Date: October 2006
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Surgery is the crude art of cutting people open, yet it is also a symphony of delicate manipulation and subtle chords. So says Jonathan Kaplan in his stunning book Contact Wounds, an electrifying account of a doctor’s education in the classroom, in life, and on the battlefield. Inspired by his father, a military surgeon in World War II and Israel’s nascent fight for statehood, Kaplan became a doctor and was appointed to a post at a woefully understaffed South African general hospital in a black township. Fleeing apartheid, he traveled the globe in search of sanctuary, experiencing riots, tropical fevers, political upheaval, and a jungle search for a lost friend. Kaplan eventually landed in Angola, taking charge of a combat-zone hospital, the only surgeon for 160,000 civilians, where he was exposed daily to the horrors of war. Journeying further into dangerous territory, Kaplan portrays serving as a volunteer surgeon in Baghdadwhere he treated civilian casualties amid gunfights for control of hospitals and dealt with gangs of AK-47-wielding looters stripping pharmacies. Contact Wounds is a stirring testament of adventure, discovery, survival, and the making of a career devoted to saving people caught in the crossfire of war.