Editor's Note: This review contains graphic content that may be disturbing to some readers.
The Lassa Ward
is a potent mix of travel memoir, coming-of-age narrative and medical mystery. Donaldson's experiences treating a frighteningly infectious and often deadly hemorrhagic fever, the strength of his West African patients, and his own grave illness bring him to a contemplation of mortality, poverty, civil war, and medicine as it is practiced in the first and third worlds.
A third-year medical student, Donaldson comes to Sierra Leone to complete a paper on Lassa fever. But his interest in the sickness is more than scientific:
From the moment I had first heard about the dreaded Lassa virus... I had been drawn to the illness. The disease is one of four famed [viral hemorrhagic fevers]... that share a...
Beyond the Book
For a short history of Sierra Leone, Africa, see the sidebar to Ancestor Stones
, by Aminatta Forna.