Dancer in the Garden

$22.95

Kra uses storytelling to connect medicine with the human condition, resulting in tales of love and loss, triumph and disillusionment. From post-war France and Switzerland to a modern private cardiology practice and the teaching hospitals at Yale, Kra diagnoses rare diseases, falls in love, and even survives a plane crash on a frozen lake. An exploration of the Golden Age of Medicine coupled with vivid moments of 17 unusual, captivating must read stories. “I take care of people’s hearts so they can go on loving. I can think of no greater privilege.”

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Description

These collected stories from a doctor’s notebook bring together the best writing of Dr. Siegfried Kra, who has published 13 books with W.W. Norton, Warner Books and McGraw Hill, among others. Like the famous Russian literary physician Chekhov, Kra uses storytelling to connect medicine with the human condition, resulting in tales of love and loss, triumph and disillusionment. From post-war France and Switzerland to a modern private cardiology practice and the teaching hospitals at Yale, Kra diagnoses rare diseases, falls in love, and even survives a plane crash on a frozen lake. An exploration of the Golden Age of Medicine coupled with vivid moments of unusual, captivating must read stories.

 

SIEGFRIED KRA emigrated, with his family, from Danzig, Germany to New York in 1939. He attended CCNY, then went to medical school in France and Switzerland before completing his training at Yale. In his practice as a cardiologist, he has treated tens of thousands of patients. Kra has published over a dozen books, both fiction and non-fiction. In addition to medicine and writing, his passions include opera, growing orchids, and tennis, which he still plays weekly at age eighty-six. He also still teaches as an Associate Professor of Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine and Quininipac University Netter School of Medicine.

Kra has been an advocate for people, without prejudice for religion, gender, age, race, religion or politics for his entire medical life. He has been interviewed by CNN, ABC & CBS. For eights years, Kra was on NPR every Thursday from 1982 to 1994, He was on The Regis Show, Religious shows like Club 500, The Smithsonian in Washington and more, including lectures at libraries in NY.

Gripping Article on Kra describing as a boy being possibly patted on the head by Hitler, how he loves medicine, and the shame of Hitler youth, as his charge took him, under the guise of boy scouts, being beaten up by brownshirts, and the fear of them and the gestapo they fled from.

 

Review: “I enjoy trying a “wild card” book now and then, i.e. by an unlikely author I’ve never heard of. So here’s Dr Siegfried Kra, pushing 90, with this delightful little collection of true stories from his long life and medical practice. Kra came to America in 1938 as a boy when his family fled the Nazis. After working his way through CCNY, he found himself blackballed by U.S. med schools in the 1950s because he’d been marked as an agitator, so he went to Europe to study medicine in France and Switzerland. One of the best and most moving pieces here dates back to his med student days in Switzerland, where he lost his heart to a beautiful young dancer, a tb patient in a sanatorium high in the Swiss Alps (“Gabrielle’s Dance”). Likewise, in “La Femme a la Porte,” he recalls an intense affair he had with a mysterious temptress during his med student year in Toulouse, France in 1952. And the book’s title comes from an odd little anecdotal take about his one-time gardener and his gorgeous companion ( “The Nocturnal Gardener” ). And “Coke on a Hot Day” is NOT about a simple, refreshing soda pop. “I’m Fine” describes his near-death experience with multiple pulmonary blood clots, while “Plane Crash on a Frozen Lake” gives us a chilling account of another close call with death. “Edith” introduces us to a sophisticated octogenarian who fears she has contracted AIDS from one of her many lovers. As a cardiologist, Kra tells us in his Preface – “I take care of people’s hearts so they can go on loving. I can think of no greater privilege.” Judging from his long career, I suspect Siegfried Kra must have been a damn good doctor. And, after reading DANCER IN THE GARDEN, I know he’s a good storyteller too. Kudos to Pleasure Boat Studio publisher for printing this lively collection. Very highly recommended. -TimBazzett | Jul 2, 2020 |

Praise of Prior work: 

Three-legged Stallion:

“Dr. Kra’s own life story, which you’ll glimpse in many of the chapters, is simply put—amazing. When you get done, you’ll probably want to give a copy to your own doctor in the hopes that while being engrossed in these little dramas, they’ll also take away some of Dr. Kra’s insights into what it means to be a healer. A book not to be missed.” 

Amazon reader: “I bought my copy of Dr. Kra’s collection of largely autobiographical short stories quite by accident at a library book sale…It’s autobiographical in the sense that the characters include himself as well as some of his more interesting patients (in disguise of course). Dr. Kra is an obviously caring physician who brings his understanding of what medical practice ought to be (and so often is not) to these revealing tales of perplexing symptoms and sometimes harrowing circumstances. Dr. Kra’s own life story, which you’ll glimpse in many of the chapters, is simply put—amazing. When you get done, you’ll probably want to give a copy to your own doctor in the hopes that while being engrossed in these little dramas, they’ll also take away some of Dr. Kra’s insights into what it means to be a healer. A book not to be missed.”

“Bizarre medical cases and diagnostic sleuthing . . . Consistently entertaining.” (THREE-LEGGED STALLION) —Publishers Weekly

“It is hard to put this book down.” —Three-Legged Stallion, Associated Press

A Doctor’s Visit3 Novellas and 5 Short Stories:

“Every life is a story. This book will make you more aware of what we all experience in our lifetime.” —Bernie Siegel, M.D., author of Help Me to Heal

“We are gifted with Dr. Kra’s page-turning reminiscences of an extraordinary medical career, in which he generously shares his humanity.” —Sherwin Nuland, M.D., author of How We Die and Lost In America: A Journey with My Father

‘An interesting life that could produce a dozen books worth reading…’

Additional information

Weight 9.376 oz
Dimensions 6 × .41 × 9 in
Page/Word Count

192

Original Language

English

Publish Date

6.15.20

ISBN

978-0-912887-61-6

3 reviews for Dancer in the Garden

  1. Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER and professional book reviewer

    I enjoy trying a “wild card” book now and then, i.e. by an unlikely author I’ve never heard of. So here’s Dr Siegfried Kra, pushing 90, with this delightful little collection of true stories from his long life and medical practice. Kra came to America in 1938 as a boy when his family fled the Nazis. After working his way through CCNY, he found himself blackballed by U.S. med schools in the 1950s because he’d been marked as an agitator, so he went to Europe to study medicine in France and Switzerland. One of the best and most moving pieces here dates back to his med student days in Switzerland, where he lost his heart to a beautiful young dancer, a tb patient in a sanatorium high in the Swiss Alps (“Gabrielle’s Dance”). Likewise, in “La Femme a la Porte,” he recalls an intense affair he had with a mysterious temptress during his med student year in Toulouse, France in 1952. And the book’s title comes from an odd little anecdotal take about his one-time gardener and his gorgeous companion ( “The Nocturnal Gardener” ). And “Coke on a Hot Day” is NOT about a simple, refreshing soda pop. “I’m Fine” describes his near-death experience with multiple pulmonary blood clots, while “Plane Crash on a Frozen Lake” gives us a chilling account of another close call with death. “Edith” introduces us to a sophisticated octogenarian who fears she has contracted AIDS from one of her many lovers. As a cardiologist, Kra tells us in his Preface –

    “I take care of people’s hearts so they can go on loving. I can think of no greater privilege.”

    Judging from his long career, I suspect Siegfried Kra must have been a damn good doctor. And, after reading DANCER IN THE GARDEN, I know he’s a good storyteller too. Kudos to Pleasure Boat Studio publisher for printing this lively collection. Very highly recommended.

       TimBazzett | Jul 2, 2020 | 

  2. Jeffrey_Hatcher | Mar 18, 2020 |  (An author) (Review on both LibraryThings and Goodreads)

    “Dancer in the Garden” is an autobiographical memoir about the career of cardiologist Siegfried Kra. He writes what are effectively short stories in a very personable style. He does so from a perspective of fifty years in medicine. What he does not do so much is tie the stories together around an easily discernible theme or message unless it is simply to warn of a danger in being tied down to protocol at the expense of humanitarianism..

    Strong chapters include a storied comparison between a young lady and an older madame in a tuberculosis sanatorium. In both instances following protocol implies diverging from the whole appreciation of their humanity. Nevertheless, dealing with them requires playing different roles which require a talent for gymnastics.

    Another chapter includes a vivid accounting of a plane crash which Kra survived in Rhode Island. He describes a number of human and environmental factors that should have culminated in the death of all of those people aboard, including his own. He makes soft allusion to a guardian angel and also seems to warn against the vice of being pedantic. Predictably, the guardian angels that may or may not exist turned their backs on several victims who were burned to death.

    Kra hints at the need for listening – literally and through a stethoscope – as opposed to relying too much upon technology. He does so in a story of examining someone and making a diagnosis of heart cancer. It is about being up close and personal.

    One of the very first sentiments of the book and also one of the most important occurs in the first chapter and resonates quite strongly with that of another book of the medical genre, “Tacking on the Styx” (2015). Kra writes:

    ““Just touch him,” I tell the masked and gloved figures. “Hold his hand and it will give him a feeling of comfort and security. He won’t be so frightened. It’s an old method I learned in medical school, before you had all these machines.” All medical care should include the ancient bedside practice of taking the patient’s hand. “It works better than Xanax,” I tell them.”

    Similarly, at the close of Chapter 1, “Tacking” has:

    “Before he left, taking his lead from ancient healing rituals and Tom’s demeanor, he took Tom’s hand in one of his and placed his other hand on Tom’s shoulder. He stood in this laying-on of hands for some minutes without speaking a single word. Transfusing a sense of human stability. Then he vanished. Tom flipped back into the abyss of sleep. This laying-on of hands by his doctor would come to be the sharpest positive image retained from his hospital stay, if only for its simplicity.”

    The mirrored sentiment arises from a reassuringly close consensus between at least one patient and a doctor for what constitutes the best practice of medicine. It is a sentiment in need of emphasis. 

  3. Goodreads comments (free PDF arc for reviews on BookSirens.Org

    Cavak— Whenever I think life is being unfair, I like to read memoirs to open up my world view. To help revive my sense of wonder and appreciation. To get a dose of empathy. To shed some tears of sorrow and joy. To gape at the audaciousness within us all. Oh, and find myself a good laugh. That always helps. Dancer in the Garden hits all those wants for me in bite-sized episodes. A story that sounds simple on the surface (a guy and his girlfriend tending to Kra’s garden) undergoes an unexpected turn with little warning. What appears to be a bold accusation shifts into a story about an unforgettable friendship. There’s many about-faces that feels like stuff you’d hear out of movieland. But you know in your gut that it’s real. Because that’s how human the stories were. Adding to that is the dimension of a doctor’s mind and eye. Hospitals are criticized and humanized. Medical practices are analyzed with warmth as opposed to the dull hammer of dread. Plus, it’s educational. And sometimes horrifying. Always check temperature of cooked meat. If I had to nitpick, many stories focus on attractive women. Okay, perhaps it’s a generation gap of values between me and Kra. Stories of lovers from Kra’s medical school days and beyond were sweet and endearing. Yet many of the women mentioned had to be attractive in one respect to bear special mention. Wonder about his other friends too. Kinda felt an imbalance. Any mentor figures that he liked? Hard to say. Maybe they’re in his other books. Dancer in the Garden reads fast and sinks for days. I’m still thinking about the people within it. Kra has led a fulfilling life with a wonderful way to share it. A privilege I wish for everyone too. Thank you for writing this book, Kra. May you write many more!

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    Cynthia— I found Dancer in the Dark by Dr. Kra to be quite interesting. According to the author profile, Dr. Kra lives in the same town that we do, Woodbridge, CT. I found myself wondering if I had ever seen him or even spoken with him. Having seen his photo at the end of the book I am unsure, possibly we were at the library at the same time. At any rate, Dr. Kra comes across in his writing as a very nice man and a very good doctor. I like his philosophy concerning patients and wish that all doctors understood how important it is to listen to their patients, to spend time with them and that respect is a two-way street. Unfortunately, even if a doctor would like to spend more time with a patient the darn insurance companies prevent it. Of course those same insurance companies seem to want to eliminate the doctors and other medical professionals altogether and make the diagnoses themselves! But enough of that rant! Back to Dr. Kra, I was surprised and saddened that he mentioned, almost in passing that he rarely heard the words “Thank you Doctor”. I have thanked every medical professional at each appointment for myself and for our son. I can’t imagine not saying it nor can I imagine not meaning it. Dr. Kra has led a very interesting and much varied life. For one person to have experienced even a small part of his life let everything he did is quite something. I think many will find Dancer in the Dark an engaging read as he is a natural storyteller. If he decides to write another book containing more of his life experiences, I will definitely read it.

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    Brittany— These stories were a quick, easily enjoyed collection. Great to read to add a bit of reality to your reading list. I really enjoyed Dr. Kra’s voice in the stories. I felt like it was an engaging conversation with a beloved family member recalling their glory days. As a young adult, I spent a lot of time with doctors both general and specialist. As a bit of a medical mystery and due to my past of moving frequently – it was always an interesting time trying to explain my past medical adventures to new doctors. I always joked that I had the craziest history and apologize to them for the difficulty I might end up being. Reading this collection really put my own personal experiences in perspective from the doctors side. The curiosities of all the people that they come in contact with daily and who they could experience make it seem like one teenager with a crazy digestive system like a walk in park. Doctors and medical professionals are such incredible people and these stories were proof of how much their lives, who they are and what they do is intertwined with their medical lives and it absorbs so much of them. Their profession isn’t just a job but a whole life.

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    Jean— It was amazing. The memoir Dancer in the Garden enchanted me. Dr. Kra is a marvelous writer, who has had some extremely memorable experiences over his lifetime. He is enough older than me that some of his accounts made me consider my parents lives as I read about what were current events in their lives and what medicine was like during the years my mother was employed as an RN. However, as interesting as those things are to me, the fascinating experiences Dr. Kra relates are far more intriguing. Although parts of his life must have been extremely difficult, other parts seem to have been almost the stuff of movies — only better. I believe I will return to this memoir in my thoughts for quite some time. If you like to read memoirs, you will very likely enjoy this one. It is written as excerpts from his life, so you can read a chapter and dwell on it or you can zoom through it, as I did. I found it to be a real treat.

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    Diane Secchiaroli— Interesting selection of short memoirs about the author’s life. Some are frightening, humorous, informative and above all interesting. This is written by a famous doctor, Siegfried Kra, and covers his life in Nazi Germany up to the later part of the twentieth century. It is a quick read and is good as an interim book. I’d be interested in reading some of his other books about Germany.

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