Purchase Novel:

From Publisher’s Weekly


“Who wants to read a novel about a leper? Anyone who wants to be enlightened, educated and entertained by bestseller Thayer's (The Weatherman) unusual but awe-inspiring hero. After stumbling on a French-German leper village while serving as a marine captain during WWI, John Severson takes a healthy little girl to safety while his near-mutinous men are ordered to return to the front. After an inquiry ends favorably, Severson returns home to St. Paul, Minn., where he becomes a high school math teacher and is secretly engaged to his favorite student. His happiness shatters after a routine medical check identifies him as a leper. In the wake of the Spanish flu epidemic, this means forced quarantine at Louisiana's Witch Tree leprosarium, which Thayer describes in disturbing and sometimes lurid detail. After escaping from Witch Tree, Severson winds up as the sheriff of Hawaii's Molokai leper colony, a relentless crusader for Hansen's disease sufferers, whose rights as U.S. citizens were too long compromised by fear. This book deserves a wide readership.”



From Booklist


“One of the characters in this novel asks who’d want to read a book about a leper? If it’s this book, the answer is almost anyone. This is quite simply a wonderful novel, one that delivers on the promise Thayer displayed in previous novels such as The Weatherman and Silent Snow. Its story is simple: the life of a soldier turned schoolteacher John Eric Severson, from World War I to the 1980s. But this is not a typical biographical novel, because Severson, soon after his return to the U.S. from the war, is diagnosed with leprosy and sent to a Louisiana leper colony. He never sees home, his family, or the woman he loves again. This could have been a relentlessly depressing novel … but Thayer, with consummate grace and sheer storytelling ability, makes it an uplifting, emotionally exuberant story of a man, who faced with insurmountable odds, discovers a sense of sense that proves impervious … If a movie had been made of this novel, say 60 years ago, Gary Cooper would have been the perfect actor to play Severson, a man whose grace and intelligence in the face of tragic adversity is downright inspiring.”