Bloodletting & miraculous cures

by Vincent Lam

Paper Book, 2007





New York : Weinstein Books, c2007.


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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member wandering_star
This is a collection of interlinked short stories dealing with a group of medical students (and later doctors). We see the trajectory of their lives, as well as evocative snapshots of the lives of their patients. Lam is himself a doctor, and his stories demonstrate the frailty of human beings - both physical and mental. They also made me wonder why anyone in their right mind would want to be a doctor.

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.
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LibraryThing member Deesirings
What a great collection. I read once that short story collections can be hard to get through because the reader has to re-commit to something new with each successive story (unlike a novel, where as a reader, you commit only once). With this collection, I felt like there were enough interconnections that either no new commitment was required with each new story, or else, the commitment was just so easy to make because each story was as readeable as the last.
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.
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LibraryThing member tripleblessings
Giller prize winner for 2006 (Canadian literature prize.)
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member Niecierpek
It’s a collection of loosely connected short stories with the same protagonists: four medical students who then become young doctors in the Ontario health system, most of them working in the ER. Each story has something to offer, and collectively they reflect really well various pressures put on doctors and medical students alike.
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.
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LibraryThing member LDVoorberg
A refreshingly different read! I like the realistic portrayal of life and of people. There was no overt commentary or criticism, just a perceptive narrative about regular people. Sometimes I wished there was more continuity between the stories, because I wanted to find out more about some of the stories, but I also liked this approach as well.
Recommended Reading.
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LibraryThing member imperfectmanx
This is a Giller Prize winner. Frankly, I don't get it. Why did this book win a prize. It's uhm - a little bland.

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
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LibraryThing member astrida22
My son actually worked with Dr. Vincent Lam when he won the Giller prize for this book!
Great interwoven stories about med students.
LibraryThing member judelbug
This was a terrific read by a Canadian author, who is also an Emergency physician working in Toronto. I found the main characters, their intertwining relationships and their patients to be interesting, but the book ended before I really felt I knew any of them... too short! I wanted more.
LibraryThing member Linnet
Interesting book -- although it's a collection of short stories, the stories are linked, and flow into one another. It's an engrossing read, covering med. school, emergency room medicine, as well as the SARS crisis in Toronto, all made more interesting because it's from the point of view of someone who actually lived it. Although I enjoyed the book, I'm not sure that it fully lives up to all the Giller prize hype.… (more)
LibraryThing member jtho
I loved this book! It is a collection of short stories that follow Fitz, Ming, Chen and Sri from pre-med, through med school, and throughout their medical careers. Each story focuses on a very specific event: a med school interview, a night shift, a patient's decline into psychosis. I was amazed at how attached I became to each character even though some of them don't appear for a few stories in a row. The magic of this book comes in the contrast between the mathematical, cold, by-the-book qualities that come with studying and practicing medicine, and the raw, emotional, very human decision and effects, too. I startled myself by laughing out loud, loving characters, and even crying a few times - and usually they were the tears that just come with feeling strong emotion, not necessarily from something sad happening. Read this book!… (more)
LibraryThing member gwendolyndawson
A collection of short stories with overlapping characters. The stories trace the lives of four medical students that become doctors. Lam, a doctor himself, incudes plenty of realistic medical detail, and the characters are complex and interesting. I think I would have preferred this as a novel. As a short story collection, the effect is like a strobe light on an intricate dyarama. Certain vignettes are revealed in the bright light during a particular period of time, but then darkness falls again, and the interconnectivity of the whole can never be fully felt or understood.… (more)
LibraryThing member piefuchs
I bought this book on a recent trip to Canada because it had one the Giller. I was diappointed. Though I typically love the format - a group of short stories that all centred on the same group of characters, I was less than impressed. When the author, who is a medical doctor by training, is writing about purely medical matters, (the story entitled Winston is a highlight) the book is good. When he is dealing with personal issues, he is sophmoric.… (more)
LibraryThing member warda
Short stories about four medical students whose lives intertwine as they make their way through each stage of training. Heroic and heartbreaking, but ultimately left me feeling vaguely disappointed. 3.5/5.
LibraryThing member nellista
I thought that this book started out strong, and had a few interesting plots, but it lost me in other parts. It is essentially the story of a few medical students, kind of presented in short story format. The first is the story of two students trying to get accepted to medical school, the second is centred on a group of medical students in their anatomy disecction class, which is one of the turning points. The different approachs, and emotions shown by the students in dealing with their first cadaver, almost shows how these students are then to specialise in their fields later. One of the students goes on to become a flight doctor, who helps ferry sick and injuried patients from overseas back to Canada, and in the process is caught up in the SARS outbreak. This is another of the more interesting parts of the story. How this effects the hospital and associated workers, was really well done.

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.
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LibraryThing member allthesedarnbooks
I loved this book! Not quite a novel, these interconnected short stories are, IMO, just about perfect. Lam has a minimalism of style that makes every word count; there is nothing extraneous in his prose. His clear, precise language paints vivid pictures of four medical students, Fitzgerald, Ming, Chen, and Sri as they become doctors. Although the medical situations are exciting and thought-provoking, it is the humanity of the doctors, and their patients, that is the true star. Ming and Fitz, in particular, will stick with me forever. I didn't want this book to end, and am eagerly anticipating what Lam will write next. Highly recommended!… (more)
LibraryThing member porchsitter55
What an outstanding book! I absolutely loved this multi-faceted story about four medical students, following them from their first years in medical school, then as they moved on to their internships, and finally as full-fledged doctors.

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.
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LibraryThing member Nickelini
This book is a group of loosely intertwined short stories involving four young Toronto doctors. Sometimes the drama concerns the doctors themselves, other times it concerns their patients.

If you like the TV show ER, you'll love Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures.
LibraryThing member Cecilturtle
This is a fascinating and compelling series of short stories featuring four doctors. Their lives interweave throughout while each story focusses on a strong emotionally-charged event. The language is absolutely beautiful, creative metaphors mingled with medical jargon. From medical school to emergency evacuation, alcoholism, infectious diseases, birthgiving and more, the reader never gets bored. Fabulous!… (more)
LibraryThing member aadyer
Worth looking at. The intial few stories were not up to much, but they got a lot better & for me were very nostalgic, but are very accessible to the non medic. Recommended
LibraryThing member Gerri007
This debut novel by doctor/author Vincent Lam won the 2006 Giller Prize and highly recommended by Margaret Atwood has languished on my shelf since it's much hyped publication until I was forced to read it as a Book Club selection.
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.
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LibraryThing member simora
Loved this book! Once I started it, I couldn't put it down!
LibraryThing member vancouverdeb
A shallow ,disappointing book. Several short stories intertwine to create the book. There was really no depth to this story.
LibraryThing member miyurose
I thought this was really interesting. It’s more a collection of short stories than a novel, and each story focuses on a different member of the core group of doctors. Despite being in medical school together, they don’t always travel in the same circles. But, practicing in the same city, their paths cross from time to time, often in very interesting ways. There’s love and death, success and failure.

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.
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LibraryThing member Romonko
I am usually not a fan of the short story genre, but I read this book because I'm working my way through the Giller Prize Winner list. This book won in 2006. It is certainly a different look at medicine and the moral and ethical dilemmas that the people in this profession face on a daily basis. I can understand why the book won the award even though I didn't really care for it that much. The series of stories in the book are connected by the four medical students and the course of their careers once they qualify as physicians. I did enjoy the story about SARS the most (Contact Tracing). I found it gave me a whole new insight into this virus and how it was handled when it came to Canada. There is black humour in this book and I like the way that Lam introduces this into the serious subjects that he is addressing. This is definitely a literary gem with a totally captivating topic (medicine in Canada).… (more)
LibraryThing member Zara.Garcia.Alvarez
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.… (more)


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