Long before the term paying it forward was coined, this 1929 inspirational novel provided that moral message. For most of his life, author Lloyd C. Douglas was a minister-he didn’t write Magnificent Obsession, his first book, until he was 50. The story focuses on Bobby Merrick, a young playboy who has a nearly fatal boating accident at the very same time that a beloved neurosurgeon is having a heart attack across the lake.
Medical attention can only get to one of them-Bobby receives it first, while the neurosurgeon dies. After learning that his life was spared at the expense of the other man’s, and inspired by writings that the doctor left behind, Bobby reevaluates his life and embarks on a course of anonymous philanthropy. He becomes a neurosurgeon himself in an effort to replace the man. In the pulpit, Dr. Douglas is a good preacher, but in this novel he is no preacher at all. Though this is his first novel, he is here all novelist, according to a book review at the time.
Contributor: Monica Starkman from University of Michigan Medical School