The story of two women--both mothers--in love with the same daughter, Samuel Shem's At the Heart of the Universe is an epic novel set deep in rural China against the backdrop of an ancient mountain monastery during the time of Mao's one-child population control policies. Inspired by the author's experiences as parent of an adopted child, it describes the drama of adoption and the journey of loss and rebirth that can happen when a daughter brings together her adopted mother and her birth mother high on a mountaintop. Set in 1991 in Changsha, capital of Hunan province, where a Chinese daughter is given up; then, again in Changsha ten years later, when the same daughter returns with her adopted American parents; then roaming across southern China until, high atop Emei San, one of only four Chinese "sacred mountains" that still has an active Buddhist monastery, something happens that does not reverse--but fundamentally changes--the irrevocable losses that have accumulated in these lives.
Bestselling novelist SAMUEL SHEM is best known as the author of the 2.2 million copy-selling modern classic, The House of God, that describes the horrors and banalities of working in hospitals, required reading for medical students and doctors. A Rhodes Scholar and Harvard Medical School faculty member for over three decades, Shem is currently on the faculty of NYU Medical School. He has given over fifty medical school commencement addresses on "Staying Human in Medicine." His other books include The Spirit of the Place, named USA Book News Best Novel of the Year and Independent Publishers Best Novel of the Year in 2009. His play Bill W. and Dr. Bob, co-written with his wife Janet, about the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, had a nine-month run Off-Broadway in 2013. He lives in Boston and Costa Rica, together with Janet and their daughter Katie.