Excerpts from ‘The Doctor’s Wife,’ by Luis Jaramillo

The following chapters are excerpted with permission from The Doctor’s Wife, written by Luis Jaramillo and published by Dzanc Books. The Doctor’s Wife is an Oprah.com Book of the Week and one of NPR’s Best Books of 2012.

Bond Issue II

The second time Nancy and the Doctor’s Wife go on TV, they’ve prepared a formal speech. The Doctor’s Wife wears a tweed suit. The children are once again thrilled, and it seems like the vote will pass with no trouble.

“I think we did it,” the Doctor’s Wife says to Nancy.

“You need to know how to yell and stomp your feet to get things done. We’re good at that,” Nancy says.

The day before the vote, a local businessman distributes flyers that distort how much people will have to pay, and the bond issue fails by sixty votes.


The Doctor’s Wife can’t get any protein down John. The solution she and her husband come across is to soft-boil eggs, barely cooked really, so that they can slip nourishment down his throat. He’s wasting away because he doesn’t have enough to eat. Anybody would go into decline if he couldn’t eat.

Long-Distance Swim

The plan is that Chrissy will swim across the lake, and Ann will accompany her in the rowboat.

“Just don’t get run over,” the Doctor’s Wife says as the girls bang the screen door behind themselves.

The Doctor’s Wife watches from the window in the living room. The small boat makes its way toward the cove. She takes up the binoculars that rest on the table between the couch and the loveseat. All she can see is Ann rowing. Finally, the boat turns around and there are two blond heads visible, both sisters sitting in the rowboat.

When they come back, Chrissy’s skin is purple.

“You’re cyanotic!”

“Oh, Mom,” Chrissy says, moving past her to get a cookie from the jar.

More Work on the Dock

One summer while I’m still at Stanford, I call to ask the Doctor’s Wife if I can bring a friend. My friend Namazzi is from Uganda by way of Deerfield and Stanford. Her three brothers are scattered around New England and Europe at boarding schools. She has a long neck, her hair is twisted into tiny inch-long braids, she has a wide nose, and is very beautifully, evenly, deep dark brown in the way that hardly anybody is evenly anything. Her grandmother’s uncle was the king of Uganda.

“You invite whoever you want. We’ve had all kinds come here,” the Doctor’s Wife says, unimpressed when I tell her Namazzi’s family history.

That summer we also spend a few days working on the dock, replacing the planking near the cabana. Namazzi works along with the rest of us, wielding a hammer.

“Oh, we’ve even had royalty visit,” I hear my grandmother say casually, a couple of years later.

For more, see our interview with Luis Jaramillo.

Luis Jaramillo is the author of the award-winning The Doctor’s Wife and is the associate chair of the New School Writing Program, where he teaches fiction and nonfiction. His short stories have been published in  Tin House and Open City.

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