Twelve interwoven stories follow the lives of a group of young doctors as they make their way from medical school to the world of emergency rooms, evacuation missions, and research into new viruses, dealing with challenges and moral dilemmas along the way.
Beautifully observed and written, honest, tender, frank and sometimes not for the squeamish. I think the most remarkable thing about the stories is the way that we are left to interpret so much about what happens between them, with just a hint and a clue here and there, and yet we end up with a pretty clear picture of the characters we have seen grow. Very highly recommended.
According to an interview in the back of my edition, Lam was working as a doctor on a cruise ship when Margaret Atwood came on board as the ship's writer. He sent her some of his work and she emailed back "CONGRATULATIONS YOU CAN WRITE". I'd agree - he can.
The stories are told from the perspectives of a variety of narrators, primarily doctors but sometimes patients as well. Many of the characters recur from story to story but rarely (if at all) does the same character get to tell more than one story.
In a sense, calling this a collection of short stories, I think, does it a disservice. It's almost a novel, told from various perspectives. But it isn't that either. It's hard to peg but it works really well.
A fascinating group of connected short stories following 4 doctors as they progress from med school to their various practices. Intense stories about dissecting cadavers, emergency resuscitations, the birth of a baby, night shift in the Emergency department, the SARS crisis in Toronto and more. While the scenarios are rather predictable, the point of view is sometimes a surprise, and there is good tension and suspense. The characters struggle with personal relationships, and moral dilemmas, human weaknesses and fears. Recurrent themes such as heartbeats, heart failure and affairs of the heart give the book more depth than the popular medical TV dramas. Definitely recommended.
I liked the third, autobiographical, story best. It had nothing to do with being a doctor in the ER; it was about Lam’s grandfather.
The style felt clumsy from time to time, but some stories, like the one on SARS, were very well written.
Did it deserve the Giller? Not sure.
Maybe it's because I was expecting a novel, and this turned out to be short stories. The fact that each story revolved around at least one of the four main characters made it a little more bearable, but really, the stories were pretty stand-alone. Sure, you get a glimpse of what happens to each character eventually, but still... The stories revolve around medicine and doctors, and is not as gripping as Grey's Anatomy. While the characters weren't remarkable, it didn't make it better that I actually disliked one of the characters - the female doctor.
The stories revolving around the human angle of teenage love and such - very uninspiring. My favourite story was he one on the SARS epidemic. That seemed real - and painted a picture of what Toronto must have been back then. And the one with the pregnancy was also a pretty good portrayal of the event. Apart from that, the rest of the stories seem mediocre.
It didn't help that the medical terms sprinkled were unintelligible, yet didn't seem to be very interesting in their context. There is a glossary at the end of the book, but I discovered it too late, and even then wasn't vested enough in the book to actually read it.
If you have to read this book, borrow it from the library. Don't waste your money on it
Great interwoven stories about med students.
And I must add, that the book finishes very suddenly! I was very disappointed in the ending. It was like he just stopped writing and didn't develop an ending at all.
Each character's personality and growth as doctors, and as people, were smoothly crafted by the author.
Also woven into the book were small snippets of experiences of each of these characters throughout their journey as doctors; each one riveting and fascinating.
This author finely intertwined the lives of each character with the other, and in doing so, told a story about individuality, the pursuit of excellence, the desire to make a difference in the world, and the fragility and ultimate mortality of human life.
If you like the TV show ER, you'll love Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures.
The twelve short stories are linked by four recurring characters: Dr. Fitzgerald,Dr.Chen who marries Dr.Ming,and Dr.Sri.They are young ambitious Toronto medical students who graduate and practice medicine in their respective specialties,their hectic lives are connected thru work,their families,and various patients.
I had trouble getting through the stories, even though they were short reads.There were some interesting moments,but overall the author failed to engage my interest in the characters with the exception of one story “Winston that kept me guessing about the “truth” through the twists and turns of the plot. Winston's dialogue during a possible psychotic break is fast paced & very realistic.
Perhaps this review is a bit slanted as I must admit I am not a big fan of short stories.
I listened to the book on audio, and was amused by the production. The narrator portrayed each character with their expected accent, and it walked the line between useful and overdone. I’m still not quite sure what to think of it. I almost felt like I should be offended on someone else’s behalf. Despite that, I enjoyed the listen.
By Vincent Lam
The book is an easy, engaging read (it took me a few days). I didn't realize the chapters were meant to be interrelated short stories until much further down the work. It's an excellent "insider view" from a doctor's perspective, the dilemmas of those in the medical profession: the body politic of the health system, the de-sensitized conditioning necessary to meet high volume and demand, the inevitability of sickness and death, and the tension between remaining professional, yet compassionate, while retaining a sense of one's own boundaries and needs. It speaks of the undeniable need to address more than the physiological, but also the breadth and scope of the fragility of the human condition---be it physical or otherwise---for doctors and patients.