Don’t Let the Goats Eat the Loquat Trees

Don’t Let the Goats Eat the Loquat Trees, by Dr. Thomas Hale ★★★★
I really wanted to give this book 5-stars as I truly enjoyed reading it. Thomas Hale is a wonderful writer, mixing an entertaining style with a storyline that is quite fascinating. I truly appreciated his frank, honest style, which seemed to hit home with the experiences that I had in Bangladesh, with the overwhelming number of patients, the extreme poverty, the prejudices against Western medicine, the personal struggles, the struggles with natives, and their own peculiarities. He never paints himself as the miracle doctor and seems to spend more time describing his failures than his successes. The book starts out as a chronological narrative for several chapters, which left me ready to put it down. He describes himself and his wife as not having a clue as to exactly where they were going, or under what conditions they would be living. The first thought was that I was reading the story of a quasi-clueless but deeply altruistic missionary dragging God along as the magic puppy-dog who bales him out of every trouble created by dumb decisions. This book ended up being anything but that and reflected a very pragmatic, hard-working surgeon who had a very real sense of what he could expect and accomplish in Nepal. Much of the book was written in non-chronological order, but with chapters divided into various topics, such as the living conditions, certain events, and philosophical reflections. I enjoyed the chapters where he vignetted various patients.  So, my criticisms. 1) I get a flavor for his character but read almost nothing of his wife, kids, other doctors, or other people involved in his life. 2) He speaks some of Christ, but little about the intention to bring Christ to the Nepalis. I am not certain whether his motivations were altruistic vs. Christ-oriented. 3) The final few chapters entail rhetoric of a Malthusian nature, with him fretting over population growth and food supply and wealth distribution. It seemed like a chapter right out of the clueless mutterings of Tony Campolo, Thomas Sines, or Ron Sider. Overlooking the criticisms, this is a fun book to read and reflective of what it is really like to be a missionary surgeon. I hope that someone like Dr. Kelley offers an autobiography of their own experiences in the field, which certainly would be as enthralling, but leading toward a more appreciative conservatism and reflective of a work of God in the mission field.