Book Reviews

Advance Praise for  A Doctor’s Quest

A Doctor’s Quest offers a roller-coaster ride on a voyage into far-flung and sometimes dangerous territory, with thrills, spills, and occasional joy along the way.  Read these stories of Gretchen Roedde’s travel each year from small-town Ontario to the world’s poorest countries in an effort to improve maternal health care, and marvel, admire, laugh, weep, and learn.

On one level this is as an adventure story, a matter-of-fact and sometimes humorous narrative of a quarter century of penetrating routes far from the tourist beat. But at its heart, this is a story of compassion and heartbreak, and one woman’s determination to be part of the effort to cut the alarming death rate among poor pregnant women. The real battle – one that continues – is not with wild nature or trigger-happy gunmen or soldiers encountered along the way, but with sluggish bureaucracy, global indifference, political corruption, and the traditional beliefs and practices that relegate women to the bottom of the social and economic ladder.  Through this profound narrative of her own experiences and the voices of the women themselves, Gretchen Roedde gives face and context to a story the world knows little about but needs to change.”

–          Olive Senior, author of Dancing Lessons; Working Miracles: Women’s Lives in the English-Speaking Caribbean; Summer Lightning, winner of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize; Over the Roofs of the World, shortlisted for Canada’s Governor-General’s Literary award; Gardening in the Tropics, winner of the F.J. Bressani Literary Prize.

“This fine book demands, and deserves, slow and appreciative reading. Not only is it absorbing because it is beautifully written — Gretchen Roedde’s voice is intimate and honest, allowing the reader to fully enter her experiences as a maternal health physician — it is also a deeply researched document providing anecdotal evidence of the real, terrifying inequities that still exist for women giving birth around the world.”

Isabel Huggan, author of Belonging: Home Away from Home,  winner of the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, 2004

 “Gretchen Roedde tells a wrenching and powerful tale about how the wealthy and privileged on this planet are failing the weakest and the poorest, namely the women and girls around the world who perish, needlessly, while trying to give life. Her compassion, curiosity, and knowledge shine through in this fastpaced and no-holds-barred account of decades in the health-care trenches around the world, as do the resilience and strength of the women whose stories and voices Roedde brings us. Her deft touch and honesty transform deeply disturbing stories into a book that is also inspiring and full of hope.”

–       Joan Baxter, journalist, development researcher and writer with more than 25 years of experience in Africa, and award-winning author. Her most recent book is “Dust From Our Eyes – An Unblinkered Look at Africa”, shortlisted for the 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

“I found A Doctor’s Quest impossible to put down. It’s full of vivid characters and situations, and at the same time is a breathtaking account of the lot of millions of impoverished women. This is a story we need to know and Roedde, with her wide experience and nononsense compassion, is just the person to tell it.”

 — John Bemrose, author of The Island Walkers, nominated for the Giller and Man Booker awards

“Gretchen Roedde has braved civil war, government corruption, and her own self-doubt to prevent needless deaths of pregnant women and their babies. To read this impassioned, heart-wrenching book is to walk alongside a clear-eyed pathfinder who resists pat conclusions. I am inspired by her courage, challenged by her insights, and moved by her finely drawn portraits of women who are asking why they must risk death to give life.”

Rona Maynard, former editor of Chatelaine magazine, author of My Mother’s Daughter, and memoir teacher.

“A wonderful read … a perspective that deserves and needs to be told, documenting the reflection and weaving the technical details in a cohesive manner.”

Dr. Michael Douglas, Healthinsights, Australia

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