Excerpt from Scorched Earth by David L. Robbins, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Scorched Earth

by David L. Robbins

Scorched Earth
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2002, 352 pages
    Mar 2003, 352 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Dr. James firmly says to Clare, "Push again. Push." Elijah's grip tightens over Clare's. The doctor continues to pull and support the emerging baby. His paper face mask puffs, he has said something but to himself.

Elijah asks, "Doctor?”

Dr. James glances up at Elijah with the look of a man at the bottom of a long and tedious hill, who must run up it and is certain he cannot. Then he looks down.

Clare cannot see around her belly and the spread of the hospital gown to her child. Elijah stays strong in Clare's hand.

She pushes her hardest. If something is wrong, she will cure it by dint of will and effort. She and Elijah will bring their child into the world even if the doctor is worried, even if he has quit looking up at them.

The infant does issue into Dr. James's waiting hands. He takes a small suction device like a turkey baster and uses it to remove the mucus blockage from the baby's nostrils; Clare hears him discharge the thing twice into a napkin. He takes a clamp from a nurse, throttles the umbilical cord, and snips it with scissors. He reaches to the nurse for the blanket and swaddles the child. He does not rise to lay the newborn on Clare's stomach to be loved in its first seconds but turns away from Clare and Elijah, carrying the child. Clare's back is on fire with the pain of birthing. The blanket is pink and the doctor has wrapped her baby in it from head to foot, she cannot see her child.

Keeping his back to Clare and Elijah, the doctor hands the newborn to a nurse. While the woman cradles it, the other nurse helps Clare take her legs down from the stirrups. Clare watches the rear of the doctor's arms and shoulders doing his final work, sees him wipe the little body with sterile cloths that he tosses into a bin with a heavy arm. She hears her baby cough in the nurse's arms behind the obstetrician's white back. Elijah says again, "Doctor?" Clare keeps herself on the table, though she wants to get up and wrest her infant away from the doctor. The child has been in the world a minute now. Clare yearns to begin.

She cannot hear what the doctor says to the nurse. But the nurse does not want to do what he asks. She hesitates. Clare hears the nurse say, "No, doctor. Please.”

Dr. James steps aside. The nurse comes closer to Clare and Elijah bearing the pink blanket. She hangs back from the bed. She does not lay the blanket across Clare's flattened and flabby waist. The nurse says, "It's a girl.”

At last Clare lets go of Elijah's hand. Her palm is soaked. She reaches both arms for her daughter. The nurse withholds the child.

From the foot of the bed Dr. James speaks. He pulls down his blue mask. Clare sees the defeat in his face. He has not, he never could, run up the long hill.

"Clare. Elijah. Wait a minute.”

Clare says, "Give me my baby.”

The doctor says their names again, "Clare. Elijah." Clare drops her arms. Elijah's hand returns into hers.

The doctor says, "I need to tell you something first.”

Clare waits for the man to continue. In those seconds she feels a wall erect itself inside her, stolid and fast, of love and loyalty for her baby. Dr. James batters the wall with his pauses and anguished eyes but the wall is holding.

He says, "There's a serious problem. With the baby's brain.”

The child in the nurse's arms, as though to refute this terrible statement, squeaks inside the pink blanket.

Excerpted from Scorched Earth by David L. Robbins. Copyright 2002 by David L. Robbins. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Comet Seekers
    by Helen Sedgwick

    A magical, intoxicating debut novel, both intimate and epic.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Next
    by Stephanie Gangi

    Fast-paced, wickedly observant, and haunting in the best sense of the word.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.