"Cloud Messenger is a wonderfully written book and indeed, tells tales not only from Karen's life experience but holds universal truths and calls forth the best of the reader from a variety of perspectives. There are many entry points of connection cross-culturally, health related or regarding our lives' spiritual journeys - all of which collect us together as part of the human family. I was so moved and inspired by this book!"
— Lori Edey, BA, BEd, MDiv, DMin, RP
"This book meant so much to me. I couldn't put it down! It helped me to see that when helping others, how important our cultural differences are and how we must fit into their lives and dreams to be effective. I was also very interested in a new way of looking at psychosomatic pain as being so connected with culture. I especially was drawn to the "heart ache" pain.
Reading this book also helped me to see that our "attachment" is not just to material objects, nor to people whom we love, but also to our idea of who others are, and to our own dreams of who we think we are. In the book, one young woman says "You believed in me, and so I started to believe in myself." This is such an important part of the book and its stories. As a book club selection, Cloud Messenger would open many personal stories of love and compassion."
— Pat Oertel, Dundas, Ontario
"The title is borrowed from a Sanskrit poem in which clouds are used to transmit messages. In a similar vein, this remarkable first book offers messages across space and culture. What makes this book unusual is the combination of informed travel writing with an autobiographical tale that has universal lessons about the need to temper or at least open our more rational minds to the value of spiritual dimensions. To this is added the insights and passion of a trained clinician who while living the events of this book acquired the skill set and writing abilities of a medical anthropologist. All this makes for an unusual combination, of clinical dispassion, cultural engagement and passion both in her own life and in the story she tells. It’s a valuable read I recommend to anyone with an interest in medicine, travel in India or to share in the search of a meaning-filled life."
— David Newman, MD, FRCS
Cardiologist, University of Toronto
KIRKUS STAR REVIEW
A Canadian doctor in India finds romance and a fraught quest for professional and personal fulfillment in this debut memoir.
The author was a young medical student when she traveled to India in 1981 and met Pradeep Kumar, a soulful pediatrician; after a four-year, long-distance courtship, she married him and returned to India to live there. The couple dreamed of practicing medicine among the impoverished villagers in the Himalayan region of Garhwal, and they did so at two ashram-run charitable health programs. But the dream became a nightmare when an autocratic ashram leader aroused local opposition—a situation that eventually resulted in his death. Trollope-Kumar’s multifaceted memoir offers an adventurous fish-out-of-water narrative, showing how she struggled to learn Hindi and adjust to India’s vibrant, chaotic culture with its constant noise and bustle. She also delivers a love story, telling how she and Pradeep negotiated their evolving relationship, especially after Pradeep immersed himself in Hindu spirituality, which she sometimes found hard to fathom. In addition, the book is a fascinating anthropological study of clashing Western and Indian cultural perspectives on health and illness; for example, village midwives smiled at the author’s germ theory of neonatal tetanus, then patiently explained that it was really caused by evil spirits. Finally, it documents a journey of self-discovery as the author’s and Pradeep’s happy success at setting up rural health centers turned to dismay as they fell apart, and then to depression and a rethinking of goals. Trollope-Kumar’s prose is evocative throughout; of her deepest melancholy, she writes, “The world around me was like a black-and-white photograph—the colour had disappeared, leaving nothing but shades….a stark world of angles, planes, and lines.” In this luminous memoir, she captures both India’s charm and its deep poverty and squalor without ever succumbing to exoticism, and she renders the people she encounters with sensitivity and insight.
A vivid saga of a woman who found an enthralling new home.