Picture this: A young female student nurse works the midnight shift in a London hospital annex when she meets a young male "house officer" (intern) during a medical emergency. It is summer in England. The young nurse and young doctor slip away during their break to meet outside in the rhubarb patch, illuminated by the moonlight, to read aloud to one another the poetry of Yeats, Browning, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

And this: A mother of three young children pursues master's degrees in economics and sociology (at night, so as not to be away from the children during the day); later assumes a teaching position at a local university; writes a book in which she upbraids the "physiognomy of hatred" propagated by hard-line Marxist/Leninist esprit breeding at the school. Her book is covered by a leading columnist for the London Times in three consecutive issues; these columns (so she's told) influence both politicians and academics.

And this: A grandmother "lives the life of a truck driver," eating and sleeping out of a 32-ton truck for a week in Poland, having traveled there because her name appeared in the letterhead of a relief organization as a "patron" and she didn't like the idea of "just being a name on the writing paper." She went in the truck convoy to "assess the situation" and to "meet the people."

And this: As nurse, crusader, mother, grandmother, and Christian, she leads a delegation of lawyers, professors, and human-rights workers, on foot, through the line of fire, up the brow of a hill waving a white tablecloth attached to a branch, across the border of Azerbaijan (a former Soviet republic) to "talk to" the Azeris. She had been visiting Christian Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh (part of historic Armenia relocated by Stalin ...

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