This is one of the most satisfying novels I've read in a long time. One of my rare six-star selections. There's a consistency of quality from cover to cover, owing to the perfect marriage of fine writing and graceful editing. Rob J. Cole is a man who feels called to be a healer. He stays true to that calling, even when surrounded by other physicians who are motivated by greed and glory. He risks and sacrifices all for the chance to study in Persia with Ibn Sina, the greatest physician of the 11th century. The story is especially fulfilling because it comes full circle. Rob returns to London after many years in foreign lands. Through comparison with those who have never left home, he realizes how he has grown in compassion, tolerance, and critical thinking. He's so far ahead of the doctors around him that he doesn't fit in, but he does finally find a place where he can put down roots and be surrounded by a loving family and community. This is a sweet relief for him after having been an orphan and an outsider since the age of nine. I read the final paragraph of the book three times in a row with tears in my eyes. There are no spoilers in it, so here is that paragraph: "As the seasons slipped by, only one thing was constant. The extra sense, the healer's sensitivity, never abandoned him. Whether he was called lonely in the night to a bedside or hurried of a morning into the crowded dispensary, he could always feel their pain. Hastening to struggle with it, he never failed to know--as he had known from the first day in the maristan--a rush of wondering gratitude that he was chosen, that it was he whom God's hand had reached out and touched, and that such an opportunity to minister and serve should have been given to Barber's boy." That sense of duty, of being one chosen to ease suffering, has completely disappeared from the practice of modern medicine. That is a tragedy beyond reckoning.