Luke Tayspill, head of the AIDS Care Program at Yale Medical School, is struggling with the most important people in his life. His father, Martin, is fighting for life after multiple strokes. His mother, Edith, wanders from one platitude to another. His wife, Theodora, has never recovered from her experiences as a war correspondent in Bosnia. Two important characters, one old and one new intrude into Luke’s personal chaos. Bishop Paul Pinckney, an African American pastor who serves as chaplain to Yale’s AIDS team, challenges Luke to consider spiritual as well as medical diagnosis. Through an unpublished manuscript buried deep in a desk he had built, Luke’s deceased grandfather emerges from his dreams to a pivotal role in the doctor’s life. “If you have no cause worth dying for, do you really have a reason to live?” Luke reads in the forward to a family story. As Luke reads The Deaths of Lucas Tayspill,
he wonders if his grandfather was prophesying his own death. Grandpa Giles’ novel ends with a single paragraph about the third and final Lucas Tayspill, a doctor born Giles wrote his book but in the same year Luke was born. When Luke has the opportunity to travel to Sierra Leone, he is at first repelled by the risk to his life. But his desire to find a reason to live draws him to the plague-ridden, war torn land. In this modern reliving of the story of the Bible’s Dr. St. Luke, Diane Komp asks her readers to consider the deepest meaning of their own lives.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Luke Tayspill is a prominent physician who serves his patients well by using his world-class brain. His father would approve. But would you, if you were his patient, want him to be your doctor before he acquires a “healer’s heart”?
2. Have you dealt with an elderly and obstinate family member whose health is declining? Is Luke’s father, Martin, like your family member or totally different? If you could sit down in Friends’ Care Center with Martin, what conversation would you have with him?
3. Do you empathize with Luke or give him a piece of your mind? Why?
4. How would you describe Luke’s spiritual journey?
5. Do you find Luke’s conversion believable? If not, how would you have written this part of the story?
6. Part of the story in The Healer’s Heart is about racial tension and reconciliation. Which parts of the story help you most with your own journey with folks who are very different from yourself?
7. Who’s your favorite character in the book?
8. Other than Luke, which character in The Healer’s Heart would you like to meet in a sequel?