Vision for God. The story of Dr. Margaret Brand.

This is a uniquely told story which is both an Autobiography and a Biography. The personal story is printed in bold type, and reflects the very personal recollections and ‘spin’ on events which moulded her experience of life. Margaret’s son-in-law provides the linking background between the passages from Margaret’s own writing. She devotes the book to the memory of her previously more well known surgeon husband, Paul Brand, who had died a few years earlier, but had pleaded with her to put her own story on record. We all stand indebted to his persistence, because we here see the record of a woman who was firstly a disciple of Jesus Christ, and an example for professional women in combining responsible motherhood of six children with pursuit of an outstanding clinical career. The pace of the storytelling is such that one ends a chapter wondering what is going to happen in the next. Human interest events combine with objective reporting to provide a wealth of quotable insights.

Margaret Berry grew up in a home where her Irish parents, always conscious of the hard road they had had to climb to reach their own professional goals, set demanding standards for their three daughters, two of whom became doctors like their father (one followed her mother into nursing). After World War 1 they had gone to live in South Africa, before returning to England to study Medicine. So began a globetrotting life for Margaret. This involved many separations from parents and children, all of which are well documented with perceptive comments on the ups and downs involved. Those of us who are clinicians and counsellors could glean useful insights as we read. The impact of Christian Unions at University provides evidence for the impact of consistent lifestyles upon thoughtful students. This applies equally to the supporting adults, as well as fellow students.

After marriage and several pregnancies Margaret had to cope with the conflicting expectations of her respected father’s materialist concerns about his ‘other worldly’ daughter (he wanted them to stay in ‘secure’ England), and her husband’s determined fundamentalist widowed mother who worked in a missionary hill station in South India. She was never too far distant from Vellore Medical School where the younger Brands worked for 16 years. The record of how these, and other issues of conflict, were worked out is very valuable, reflecting the practicality of a Christian discipleship which bases its decisions on a close relationship with Christ, the source of all wisdom. Indeed one can appreciate the enthusiasm of Philip Yancey, the respected author who writes the supportive Foreword for the book. Life lessons pop up in nearly every chapter.

This is one of the most readable and challenging books I have come across in many years. Of interest to a wide range of potential readers, including women in the professions, parents bemused by the difficulties of bringing up children, and doctors who have lost some of their initial enthusiasm for their vocation, it is a story of how Christian faith must find expression in good deeds motivated by love to God and to one’s neighbour.