Sunday, January 31, 2010
Doctor Margaret's Sea Chest... great debut novel!
Doctor Margaret's Sea Chest
By Waheed Rabbani
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story of Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest written by Waheed Rabbani. This book is a debut novel and the first in his trilogy. Mr. Rabbani’s book keeps you engaged from beginning to end as he allows you to journey back and forth between the mid-1800’s and 1960's beginning in Delhi, India and travelling through other parts of the world. The story discusses the lives of Dr. Margaret Wallace and Dr. Wallidad Sharif. Dr. Wallace wanted to be a doctor since she was a young girl when she first heard the minister tell the story of doctor’s helping sick children in India and receiving her first doctor’s kit from her aunt and uncle. Her mother mocked her occupational desires. I applaud her for standing strong against those who felt during that time a woman shouldn’t be a doctor, especially her mother.
Mr. Rabbani is a talented storyteller guiding us on a journey with a first person account of the history of the Indian Rebellion and the role Dr. Margaret Wallace, an American born doctor from New Jersey, played in both the rebellion and Dr. Sharif’s family history. It connects these two doctors although they never met in the present.
American doctor, Dr. Sharif, is in Delhi on assignment in the 60’s and at the end of his contractual term, he is asked to return an abandoned sea chest belonging to Dr. Wallace back to her family. The chest is 100 years old, in good condition, and hasn’t been opened since it was left in a closet at a hospital in Delhi. No one knows the contents as they feel it is disrespectful to open it prior to it being passed on to Dr. Wallace’s surviving family members allowing them to search the contents. The chest peaks the interest of Russian agents forcing Dr. Sharif to participate in some trickery to keep the chest safe resulting in a violent altercation with the Russian agents. Luckily, the unopened chest is shipped to Dr. Sharif’s home safely.
Dr. Sharif tracks her descendants back to Canada and accompanied by his wife, he returns the unopened chest to Dr. Wallace’s family. Upon entering the home, Dr. Sharif realizes a picture in the home happens to be the woman that has been visiting him in his nightmares—Dr. Margaret Wallace. Once the chest is opened, it unmasks hidden treasures, artifacts, and Dr. Wallace’s diaries. The stories in the diary connect Dr. Wallace and Dr. Sharif through ancestry and her life spent in India.
Mr. Rabbani paints a picturesque journey through various places during different moments in history all the while the stories remain poignantly vivid. I could see the clothing, smell the spices, see Dr. Wallace’s well-kept chest, and visualize each character as I eagerly turned each page. This book is alive with-- mystery, suspense, conflict and love—along with a piece of history I never learned about in school, splashed throughout. I recommend this book and anxiously await the next book in the trilogy.