In this combination memoir/medical ruminations - originally published under the title Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants - Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey share Dr. Brand's work as a physician, with reflections from a lifetime of thinking about pain. It is natural for Dr. Brand to explore the subject of pain, for in a career as a surgeon working among leprosy patients, he has seen the devastating effects that come upon people who lack pain - damaged feet, fingers, noses, or eyes, often leading to infection, misery, and death. Part one of this book traces Dr. Brand's path into medicine. Part two explores his career in pain, and part three shares how Dr. Brand has learned to befriend pain, seeing it as a gift, an essential requirement for health. As a Britain who has spent roughly one third of his long life in England, one third in India, and one third in the United States, Dr. Brand's life on three different continents have given him first-hand glimpses of how people view pain. People of any philosophical or religious persuasion will enjoy this ecumenical book, especially since it addresses an issue common to us all. The writing is not overly technical or heavy, and numerous illustrations/stories make this a very readable book. I found the book helpful for understanding the dual nature of pain ("For good and for ill, the human species has among its privileges the preeminence of pain,"), and appreciated the helpful discussion about learning to cope with it.
It's difficult to summarize this marvelous book in a few words. It's a biography, and a very fascinating one, of one of the world's finest hand surgeons, who came to his line of work because of his concern for patients with leprosy. Dr. Brand is one of the most remarkable men I have ever met, and the story of his life and his work is page-turningly interesting. His life has had very few dull patches. However, the book is also an examination of the place of pain in our lives, and Dr. Brand uses his life story and his quest for understanding the place of pain in the lives of his leprosy patients as a way of getting us to understand the significance of pain and why it must be considered a gift. There are so many wonderful things to say about this book - Dr. Brand is a great storyteller, Phillip Yancey a fine writer and thinker in his own right, whose contributions by Dr. Brand's own estimation amount to far more than just editing Dr. Brand's thoughts - but perhaps I can best summarize the effect of the book by saying that I have given it to 6 people so far, and all have thanked me profusely for doing so. The first person bought ten copies of it herself to give to friends! Yes, it's that good.
I absolutely could not put this book down. It is an amazing story. It stimulated my mind to hear how Dr. Brand did not accept common knowledge but really saw and listened to patients and developed a whole new treatment program for leprosy. Am I as alert and aware to what goes on around me? Dr. Brand's personal story is very interesting as are his views on hospitalization in third-world countries and also on raising children in those locations. In addition there is help with our own attitudes and actions in times of pain. This is one of my favorite books of all time and a "good read".
I am not given to rave reviews; in fact I am not in the habit of reviewing books at all, but I want to make an exception in this case. Having lived for several years in Africa I have had contacts with lepers and leprosy at first hand and as a practising and, (I hope) thinking, Christian I have thought, read and discussed much on the problem of pain and suffering. As a lay preacher it is a subject I have dealt with - with considerable trepidation - on a number of occasions, not I may say pretending to know the answers but seeking to help at least ask the right questions.
I first came across this book whilst travelling in India, my visit including some work among the street lepers in Hydrabad. Whilst have to say that I do not agree with all of Dr Brands conclusions I must say it helped enormously to open my understanding of this intenselsy difficult topic. As an autobiographical account of his life it is fascinating. As an informative book about the causes and progress of leprosy it is illuminating. As a reflection on pain (in particular) and suffering (in general) it is outstanding. It is, in places, not for the faint hearted -some of the accounts he gives are quite graphic - but it is never gratuitously so. Since reading this I have recommended and passed it on to several people, young and old some with and some without religious convictions(indeed my own copy seems to have gone 'walkabout'! The response has been extremely positive, including descriptions such as 'fascinating'. 'amazing' 'mind-opening', 'best I've read', 'what else has he written? I want it'.
Short description: Easy to read, a biography, also a textbook on pain, encouraging, something to really think about - says pain is vital to living!?! learn about leprosy, India, Pain, and Paul Brand's amazing life. The Review This is not just another book about the "why pain?" issue. Instead, its the story of Dr Paul Brand's life from childhood in India, to retirement in America as a world-renowned hand surgeon and leprosy specialist. Following his parent's medical and missionary work, in the hills of South India, and his own career in India, this book shares some of Paul Brand's reflections on pain, and why we need it, especially regarding the painlessness of people suffering from leprosy (Hanson's disease). Much of the second half of the book is about the pioneering hand surgery that Paul Brand performed, and the changed lives of His patients. After so much experience with those who feel no pain, Paul Brand has some very interesting insights, so much so, that the title of this book, if you hadn't noticed, refers to pain as a gift. It's worth a read! Hold on... While this book has some great conclusions about pain and why we have it, its not the ultimate answer to the common Christian question, "Why pain?" If your looking into the pain issue for yourself or for answers for others, say, your patients - read this book - it will help a lot; however don't make it all you read. Good books with other perspectives and theories as well are: The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis, If I Were God I'd End All The Pain by John Dickson, Windows of Hope by Muriel Huntley, Where Is God When It Hurts by Phillip Yancey and last but is always first - the Bible by God.
Paul Brand was a very gifted surgeon. He was well known for surgical work with the Leprosy in patients in India and his other book - the Clinical Mechanics of the Hand - is a classic on the subject. This book gives an insight into the other, non-technical and compassionate side of this great man. As a surgeon myself, I would thoroughly recommend it to my fellow professionals.
The main thesis is that pain is an invaluable part of our nervous system; to demonstrate this, the first part of the book charts much of Dr Brand’s early life, and his calling into medicine and – eventually – working with a leprosy mission in India as an orthopedic surgeon. I had already read his biography, ‘Ten Fingers for God’, less than a year ago; so some of the material was not new to me.
Nonetheless, it was written in such an interesting way that I didn’t skim; there were extra reminiscences and asides which, as ever, were fascinating to read. There were also several medical histories which I had not previously read about.
Excellent! Highly recommended. Christian input is low-key so likely to be of interest to anyone.
This book is fantastic...it highlights why our bodies need pain, to be able to stop us so we can get better and not really by masking pain and sometimes making this worse. I loved the book so very insightful.