The Waiting Room
Vintage, $32.99 pb, 304 pp, 9780857986221
'Freg nisht dem royfe, freg dem khoyle – Don't ask the doctor, ask the patient,' my grandmother says in Yiddish, one of eight languages at her disposal, having grown up in Europe during World War II and migrated as a teenager to the multilingual melting pot of Israel. I smile and ask her for another gem. My grandmother obliges, this time with a juicy-sounding Bulgarian phrase with a similar meaning: 'Ne pitai uchilo, pitai petilo – Don't ask the learned, ask the experienced.'
The word patient comes from the Latin verb pati, meaning to suffer or endure. So do patience, passion, and compassion. The notion of receiving medical treatment is inherently linked in the English language to suffering – and to waiting.
In The Waiting Room, the first novel of author–doctor Leah Kaminsky, the link is suggested as early as the epigraph page, where the last entry in Katherine Mansfield's Journal reads: 'We all fear when we are in waiting rooms. Yet we all must pass beyond them ...' Throughout the book, the setting of a doctor's waiting room serves as an extended metaphor for a state of restless transience, and echoes the psychological enclosure of its protagonist, Dr Dina Ronen.