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Former Carson resident to read from new novel

Karl Horeis, Appeal staff writer

Before she and her family moved to Carson City, Ruth Linnea Whitney spent two years in Kinshasa, Zaire, in the midst of a mystery.

While she raised two young boys, who would later graduate from Carson High School, her husband Dave worked as the only orthopedic surgeon in a city of 2 million. During those two years, 1974 and 1975, a new virus — HIV/AIDS — was insidiously taking lives.

Inspired by those heady years, Whitney has worked off and on since writing a novel, “Slim,” which was published this year. She will read from and sign copies of the book at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Bookcellar, 1202 N. Carson St.

“The book is set in ’85 when nobody understood what (AIDS) was,” she said Thursday. “One of the first people we heard of who died from it was a Danish woman surgeon who worked in Zaire at the same time Dave did.”

Despite operating daily unaware of the risk, Dave came home safe. Home was a new house built by Fred Brown on Cordero Drive in northwest Carson City. While her husband joined the practice of Dr. Richard Long, Ruth Whitney was substitute teaching at the high school, Dayton Elementary and Western Nevada Community College.

“And I taught a course at the Brewery Arts Center called ‘Overcoming Fear of Writing,'” she said with a chuckle.

Then she enrolled in the Masters program at University of Nevada, Reno, where she earned a degree in English. Her novel, “Slim,” began to take form there as her thesis, she said.

“Somewhere in the dusty stacks of the university library there is an early copy of this book,” she said.

While the book is centered on the devastating AIDS epidemic, her experiences in Africa, such as seeing the Mohammed Ali-George Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” in the fall of 1974, flavor the book in a way that can’t be faked.

“I had someone who had read the book come up to me on the street and say, ‘I don’t think it’s really about AIDS –EI think it’s about soul,'” said Whitney.

She related the story to the way a mussel will create smooth pearl around a scratchy grain of sand in its shell.

“AIDS is sort of the irritant around which the pearl forms,” she said.

After living in Carson for 16 years, the Whitneys moved to Port Townsend, Wash. Going to the Northwest was a homecoming for them because she grew up in Seattle and he grew up in Spokane.

“But there’s a part of me that finds this area as home, too,” she said.

These days Dave Whitney has closed his practice and does some independent consultation while his wife is working on a memoir and doing book signings for “Slim.” Thursday she signed at Sundance Bookstore in Reno and, after Carson’s Bookcellar, she’ll make stops in Washington: Gig Harbor, Lake Forest Park and Yakima.

Her novel, “Slim,” Southern Methodist Press, 2003, is available at Amazon.com or at many Barnes & Noble stores.

If You Go

What: Book signing by “Slim” author Ruth Linnea Whitney

When: 11 a.m. Saturday

Where: The Bookcellar, 1202 N. Carson St.

Call: 885-7772