The Laws of Invisible Things A Novel

Frank Huyler




Trade Paperback

320 Pages



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Not long into Michael Grant's first year in his new practice, a young girl in his care unexpectedly dies. Recently divorced, living in a self-imposed state of isolation, he takes the news hard: He might not have been able to change that outcome, but he didn't do all in his power to prevent it, either. So when the girl's grandfather, a local pastor, asks him to take on the girl's father as a patient, Michael feels he must oblige his wishes. Examining the man, Michael notices an unusual pattern—a white serpentine spiral—on the back of the throat and in his eye. But before a diagnosis can be made, the man is dead, and soon Michael himself is experiencing symptoms of the strange illness.

Believing that he has stumbled across a new disease but unable to convince his colleagues, Michael sets out to gather evidence. The quietly forceful reverend compels Michael to consider explanations beyond science; at the same time, a tentative relationship with a colleague's daughter draws him slowly back into the world. Soon he's embarking on a quest that takes him deep into a wilderness of disease, religion, and mystery, ultimately leading him to question not only his belief in the order of the world but his own place and purpose within it.

Lyrical and engrossing, The Laws of Invisible Things fully delivers on the promise of Dr. Frank Huyler's acclaimed collection of autobiographical essays, The Blood of Strangers. In the words of Paul Auster, "This is a young writer with a big mind—and an even bigger heart."


Praise for The Laws of Invisible Things

"A compelling, curious book with rewards on nearly every page."—The Economist

"A cunning meditation on faith and its loss."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Gripping . . . Huyler writes such subtly forceful prose . . . that his novel takes on a cool, uniquely powerful sense of dread."—Chicago Tribune

"[We] had better hope that our caretakers have meditated in the wisdom and compassion of books like The Laws of Invisible Things."—The Boston Globe

"This is no hospital horror tale, but an earnest inquiry into the ambiguities of illness and the morality of the medical profession . . . The intimate tone of Huyler's elegiac voice invites us to . . . think again about the things we think we know."—The New York Times Book Review

"In brilliantly lucid prose, The Laws of Invisible Things takes on the greatest issues we face—life and death, and the difference between living consciously and merely existing. Throughout, Frank Huyler is amazingly surehanded, relying on a patience and restraint rare in contemporary first novelists."—Stewart O'Nan, author of The Night Country

"Dr. Frank Huyler evokes the mysteries of illness with an intimacy and clarity that is nothing short of astonishing. The Laws of Invisible Things combines the tough-minded realities of medicine with the poignancy of suffering as it takes on the large question of what it means to be physician and patient in the inexplicable world of sickness."—Siri Hustvedt, author of What I Loved

"Chilling, subdued, and scalpel sharp, this debut novel by the physician author of The Blood of Strangers—a highly acclaimed collection of starkly realistic stories set in the world of medicine—explores the hazy borderlines of sin and disease. Just out of training, 35-year-old Michael Grant is in his seventh month of practice with an established internist in a medium-sized North Carolina city when the young granddaughter of an African-American minister dies in his care. Because he thinks he might have been less than thorough in handling the case, he agrees to honor the minister's request to examine his son—the dead girl's father—who is also ailing. The exam reveals a curious white tendril-like pattern on the back of the patient's throat and inside his eye. Regrettably, before he has enough lab work to make a diagnosis, the patient quickly worsens and dies in a house fire. When Michael begins to experience similar symptoms and almost dies, too, he is convinced he has encountered an insidious new infectious disease. Unable to convince his colleagues, the disease-ravaged Michael embarks with Nora, his senior partner's daughter, on a quest to identify the nameless scourge. Evidence leads Michael to exhume the body of the elderly minister's granddaughter, and the trail takes them to a remote mountaintop. Deftly plotted and rich with psychological and ethical nuance, this fine debut succeeds equally as medical suspense novel and understated morality play."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"With solid characterization and crisp dialogue, Huyler has fashioned a timely parable about what it means to be a physician."—Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Frank Huyler

  • Frank Huyler is an emergency physician in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His poetry has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Georgia Review, and Poetry. He is also the author of The Blood of Strangers, a collection of medical essays.





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