The plot of Mere Mortals is all too familiar. A beautiful young nurse and talented young doctor fall in love, marry, and mature in their professions only to have the heroine tragically die. Along the way, the protagonists' vitality and passion for each other and medicine starkly contrast with the disease and suffering that surround them. In some ways, the novel seems to be a hybridization of Erich Segal's Love Story and Samuel Shem's The House of God.
Initially, the story is set in an internationally famous oncology center. Whipple Hospital is described as a place where "the Mets Always Win—mets as in metastases." The main characters meet here and fall in love against a backdrop where the notion of normalcy is challenged daily. Later, the novel follows its two leading characters as he enters a fellowship and then private medical practice, and she pursues her education, has children,