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Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures (Limited Edition): Special Limited Edition

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Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures welcomes readers into a world where the most mundane events can quickly become life or death. By following four young medical students and physicians – Ming, Fitz, Sri and Chen – this debut collection from 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Vincent Lam is a riveting, eye-opening account of what it means to be a doctor. Deftly navigating his Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures welcomes readers into a world where the most mundane events can quickly become life or death. By following four young medical students and physicians – Ming, Fitz, Sri and Chen – this debut collection from 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Vincent Lam is a riveting, eye-opening account of what it means to be a doctor. Deftly navigating his way through 12 interwoven short stories, the author explores the characters’ relationships with each other, their patients, and their careers. Lam draws on his own experience as an emergency room physician and shares an insider’s perspective on the fears, frustrations, and responsibilities linked with one of society’s most highly regarded occupations. “I wanted to write about the way in which a person changes as they become a physician — how their world view shifts, and how they become a slightly different version of themselves in the process of becoming a doctor,” Lam explains. “I wanted to write about the reality that doing good and trying to help others is not simple. It is ethically complicated and sometimes involves a reality that can only be expressed by telling a story.” In the book’s first story, “How to Get into Medical School, Part 1,” students Ming and Fitz wrestle with their opposing personalities and study techniques, while coming to terms with a growing emotional connection that elicits disapproval from Ming’s traditional Chinese-Canadian parents. Lam’s exceptional talent for describing scenarios with great precision is showcased in “Take All of Murphy,” when Ming, Chen, and Sri find themselves at a moral crossroads while dissecting a cadaver. Throughout the book, readers are treated to the physicians’ internal thoughts and the mental drama involved with treating patients, including Fitz’s struggle with self-doubt in “Code Clock” and Chen’s boredom and exhaustion in “Before Light.” From delivering babies to evacuating patients and dealing with deadly viruses, the four primary characters in Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures are made thoroughly human by Lam’s insightful detail, realistic dialogue, and expert storytelling. The medical world is naturally filled with drama, but it’s the author’s ability to give equal weight to the smaller moments that really brings this book to life.


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Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures welcomes readers into a world where the most mundane events can quickly become life or death. By following four young medical students and physicians – Ming, Fitz, Sri and Chen – this debut collection from 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Vincent Lam is a riveting, eye-opening account of what it means to be a doctor. Deftly navigating his Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures welcomes readers into a world where the most mundane events can quickly become life or death. By following four young medical students and physicians – Ming, Fitz, Sri and Chen – this debut collection from 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Vincent Lam is a riveting, eye-opening account of what it means to be a doctor. Deftly navigating his way through 12 interwoven short stories, the author explores the characters’ relationships with each other, their patients, and their careers. Lam draws on his own experience as an emergency room physician and shares an insider’s perspective on the fears, frustrations, and responsibilities linked with one of society’s most highly regarded occupations. “I wanted to write about the way in which a person changes as they become a physician — how their world view shifts, and how they become a slightly different version of themselves in the process of becoming a doctor,” Lam explains. “I wanted to write about the reality that doing good and trying to help others is not simple. It is ethically complicated and sometimes involves a reality that can only be expressed by telling a story.” In the book’s first story, “How to Get into Medical School, Part 1,” students Ming and Fitz wrestle with their opposing personalities and study techniques, while coming to terms with a growing emotional connection that elicits disapproval from Ming’s traditional Chinese-Canadian parents. Lam’s exceptional talent for describing scenarios with great precision is showcased in “Take All of Murphy,” when Ming, Chen, and Sri find themselves at a moral crossroads while dissecting a cadaver. Throughout the book, readers are treated to the physicians’ internal thoughts and the mental drama involved with treating patients, including Fitz’s struggle with self-doubt in “Code Clock” and Chen’s boredom and exhaustion in “Before Light.” From delivering babies to evacuating patients and dealing with deadly viruses, the four primary characters in Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures are made thoroughly human by Lam’s insightful detail, realistic dialogue, and expert storytelling. The medical world is naturally filled with drama, but it’s the author’s ability to give equal weight to the smaller moments that really brings this book to life.

30 review for Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures (Limited Edition): Special Limited Edition

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kyla

    3.5 - I'm really. really surprised this won the Giller Prize. Another case of a Doctor writes a book based on his work history and the critics swoon, because it's not a world typical writers come from or an arena that they cover. A novelty act, almost. Some stories are interesting, but again, I would add it's not because of the writing per se (which is readable but plain, not spare plain, just plain plain), as much as the backstage peek at a Dr.'s life. Also, it just makes me mad when other prof 3.5 - I'm really. really surprised this won the Giller Prize. Another case of a Doctor writes a book based on his work history and the critics swoon, because it's not a world typical writers come from or an arena that they cover. A novelty act, almost. Some stories are interesting, but again, I would add it's not because of the writing per se (which is readable but plain, not spare plain, just plain plain), as much as the backstage peek at a Dr.'s life. Also, it just makes me mad when other professions think they can be a writer - anyone can be a writer, stupid - and then includes a faintly insulting Glossary of medical terms at the back. Defining stethoscope, for instance. I think readers - even not genius doctor/writers like yourself sir, have heard of a stethoscope. And if they haven't, they probably have a dictionary or Google handy, thanks anyway.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    This is an extremely interesting book, especially if you are acquainted with anyone who has endured the appallingly stressful rigors of medical school and lived to tell about it. Written by an author who has done just that, this book is a work of fiction that interweaves the stories of several aspiring young doctors and follows them through their professional lives. Along the way, he reveals them to be intelligent, ambitious, complicated, and very, very human. In other words, he tells his story This is an extremely interesting book, especially if you are acquainted with anyone who has endured the appallingly stressful rigors of medical school and lived to tell about it. Written by an author who has done just that, this book is a work of fiction that interweaves the stories of several aspiring young doctors and follows them through their professional lives. Along the way, he reveals them to be intelligent, ambitious, complicated, and very, very human. In other words, he tells his story like it often is, and not like we would wish it to be. (CAUTION: If you were once a fan of Marcus Welby, M.D. -- that was a TV show, for those of you too young to remember -- you will HATE this book. No character in it is all-wise, all-sacrificing, or constantly a paragon of medical virtue. They are, instead, human, and therefore behave both wisely and stupidly, kindly and selfishly -- just as we all do, if we are honest enough to admit it.) If you choose to read this book, be sure to give it time to really "grow on you." Usually when I read a book, I know within the first 50-100 pages what rating I am likely to give it by the time I'm finished. (Though, for any authors out there reading this, note that I DO continue to keep an open mind!) This book surprised me by continuing to draw me in more and more as its story (really, it's plural -- stories) progressed. I thought the author was particularly skillful in the way he introduced each vignette -- at first, I was never sure how this piece of the individual's tale was going to fit into the story as a whole. By the end of the book, however, I was fully satisfied that I had seen enough of each character's struggles and gifts to give me a sense of their unique personality and how they had changed -- for good and for bad -- during their lives. If you are a reader who enjoys complex characters and gritty honesty and does not need every single detail of your characters' lives spelled out for you (it's a series of vignettes, remember?) then I would definitely recommend this book to you. And I will be sure to read more of Vincent Lam's work.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Allegra S

    So the last 100 pages picked up a bit and it wasn't as bad as I originally thought, but it wasn't great. The last two stories were really good concepts (doctors and nurses sick during the SARS epidemic, and what it feels like to really work an overnight ER shift) but I'm still not a fan of the style of writing. I think his best literary choice was to leave Ming and her stupid relationship problems out of the second half of the book! I have two big problems with this book. In the beginning all th So the last 100 pages picked up a bit and it wasn't as bad as I originally thought, but it wasn't great. The last two stories were really good concepts (doctors and nurses sick during the SARS epidemic, and what it feels like to really work an overnight ER shift) but I'm still not a fan of the style of writing. I think his best literary choice was to leave Ming and her stupid relationship problems out of the second half of the book! I have two big problems with this book. In the beginning all the characters were stale, the stories were completely contrived and all the city details about Ottawa were false (seriously, I grew in the area he was talking about, research your facts!). So it was really hard to actually pick up the book and read it. And secondly, throughout the book the dialogue seemed so phony that I had trouble connecting with the characters and couldn't really imagine what they were experiencing, which is why I bought the book in the first place (following a group of university kids to med school and then their jobs). I enjoyed the story ideas about the old Chinese grandfather (which only made me want to get 'The Jade Peony' out of the library) and Winston because the story twists were actually somewhat interesting, but I feel that someone else could have taken these ideas and written much better and comprehensive story lines. My recommendation: don't bother.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Graham Wilhauk

    This book was so good and so disappointing at the same time. The first 100 pages of this intertwined short story collection knocked my socks off. The way that Lam introduced these characters and their situations and lives was incredible. However, what did Lam do as an author to keep the reader's interest? Well, he dropped a ton of potential storylines in order to go completely episodic and only decides to go back to the plots introduced at the beginning in the last 60 pages of the book at a very This book was so good and so disappointing at the same time. The first 100 pages of this intertwined short story collection knocked my socks off. The way that Lam introduced these characters and their situations and lives was incredible. However, what did Lam do as an author to keep the reader's interest? Well, he dropped a ton of potential storylines in order to go completely episodic and only decides to go back to the plots introduced at the beginning in the last 60 pages of the book at a very fast pace. Besides the first three stories and the story "Contract Tracing" which was the only story past page 100 that I LOVED, these stories weren't very good. I was stunned at first to see this book at a 3.47 average rating on Goodreads. I was loving it so much at the time that I was confused on why it had such a poor average rating out of 7,000 ratings. After finishing the book, I can DEFINITELY see why. It did rebound a little bit at the end when things started to wrap up, but the middle chunk and the last story itself were incredibly poor. In short, this collection was extremely mixed. Unless if you are fascinated by the idea of this book, I say skip it. I am giving this one a 3 out of 5 stars.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rosa

    This book has all kinds of impressive blurbs on the back cover, including praise from Margaret Atwood and Sherman Alexie himself (who has never struck me as the easy to please type) - I initially sought it out because of a really favorable review in Entertainment Weekly. Maybe all the hoopla led me to expect too much, but I just didn't see what the big deal was. Lam is a very skilled and nuanced writer, but it still seemed like most of the stories were more driven by plot than by character devel This book has all kinds of impressive blurbs on the back cover, including praise from Margaret Atwood and Sherman Alexie himself (who has never struck me as the easy to please type) - I initially sought it out because of a really favorable review in Entertainment Weekly. Maybe all the hoopla led me to expect too much, but I just didn't see what the big deal was. Lam is a very skilled and nuanced writer, but it still seemed like most of the stories were more driven by plot than by character development, so that in the end it wasn't that much different from watching one of the better episodes of ER. I think people find Lam's perspective engaging because you really get a sense that doctors are human beings with real flaws like the rest of us (the author is an actual ER doctor at a hospital in Toronto) - they lose their tempers, get their hearts broken, sometimes feel completely powerless, etc. I just didn't see a real difference between his four protagonists (all doctors, all somewhat interchangeable). Anyway, I'm not saying that plot-driven books can't be worthwhile, just that I'm a characterization gal, and this one didn't convince me to switch parties. Lam is an ethnic Chinese (Cantonese - raise the roof!) who was born and raised in Vietnam, and his next novel is going to be a multigenerational saga about a family in Saigon - I would definitely read that, because he really does have an interesting perspective and a way with words.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Krymalowski

    Overall a little disappointing. The character development in the few chapters is promising, but as soon as the doctors enter the field all character development completely stops and the characterizations become inconsistent. What we are left with is what feels like an accurate window into an emergency room with minimal embellishment in the way of narrative, literary prose or character development, not that this is neccesarily negative. The world he offers the reader is both interesting and borin Overall a little disappointing. The character development in the few chapters is promising, but as soon as the doctors enter the field all character development completely stops and the characterizations become inconsistent. What we are left with is what feels like an accurate window into an emergency room with minimal embellishment in the way of narrative, literary prose or character development, not that this is neccesarily negative. The world he offers the reader is both interesting and boring: a lot of administering CPR to people who are already dead, a lot of bravado,

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Boring. Sorry Mr. Lam, sorry Giller Prize panel. I tried hard to like this, pushing through all the way to page 150, but I realized I don't really care what happens to these two-dimensional characters, or whether a theme suddenly pops into view. The anecdotes are interesting, mainly for the inclusion of the author's behind the scenes medical knowledge but I can't really see where it's going. Oh - and the medical glossary at the end? You feel you have to define abdomen? Or vocal cords? Please. I ha Boring. Sorry Mr. Lam, sorry Giller Prize panel. I tried hard to like this, pushing through all the way to page 150, but I realized I don't really care what happens to these two-dimensional characters, or whether a theme suddenly pops into view. The anecdotes are interesting, mainly for the inclusion of the author's behind the scenes medical knowledge but I can't really see where it's going. Oh - and the medical glossary at the end? You feel you have to define abdomen? Or vocal cords? Please. I have lots of other books waiting on my TBR shelf, all applauding as I move this one to 'did not finish' .

  8. 5 out of 5

    CynthiaA

    A series of medically-themed short stories. Well-written and authentic, with the characters intertwined throughout. Doctors are humanized, make good decisions and bad decisions, question their career choice, just like the rest of us. I gotta tell you though, this book does NOT make me trust a doctor more.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Anna Engel

    The "story" is told via vignettes that feature the various medical students introduced at the beginning of the book. This is lazy on the author's part because he doesn't have to develop a story or its characters. He merely places them in situations, lets them do their doctor thing, and moves on. The writing itself is plain (but plain-plain, not stylistically so) and lacks any real sense of style or personality. The inter-character relationships are not well-developed. I disliked almost all of the The "story" is told via vignettes that feature the various medical students introduced at the beginning of the book. This is lazy on the author's part because he doesn't have to develop a story or its characters. He merely places them in situations, lets them do their doctor thing, and moves on. The writing itself is plain (but plain-plain, not stylistically so) and lacks any real sense of style or personality. The inter-character relationships are not well-developed. I disliked almost all of the characters, particularly Fitz. Ming is unlikable, obsessive, and mean. Also, I didn't care for any of them. The only aspect of the story I enjoyed was the medicine. The rest was slightly above mediocre storytelling.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lorri

    If I could give this book six stars, I would. This is a series of short stories/essays loosely connected through a group of medical students/doctors in the Toronto area. If you have some medical background you will no doubt identify with some of the vignettes (and not have to check the glossary at the back for definitions of some of the technical terms) but this would be a fascinating read for anyone. It justly deserved the Giller Prize. I borrowed this book from the library after reading and enj If I could give this book six stars, I would. This is a series of short stories/essays loosely connected through a group of medical students/doctors in the Toronto area. If you have some medical background you will no doubt identify with some of the vignettes (and not have to check the glossary at the back for definitions of some of the technical terms) but this would be a fascinating read for anyone. It justly deserved the Giller Prize. I borrowed this book from the library after reading and enjoying The Headmaster's Wager. My plan is to buy a copy now, because it deserves to be read and reread.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Hidaya Alatas

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Thoroughly enjoyed the book right from the first story. I love Lam's writing style that gripped my attention and didn't let go; written mostly in plain English, the book is a very accessible view into the world of budding doctors. The perspectives of the stories felt like a camera zooming into and out of the characters' personal lives- sometimes written in first person and other times adopting an omniscient third person narrator- I didn't really chart the changes but I felt that it not only tied Thoroughly enjoyed the book right from the first story. I love Lam's writing style that gripped my attention and didn't let go; written mostly in plain English, the book is a very accessible view into the world of budding doctors. The perspectives of the stories felt like a camera zooming into and out of the characters' personal lives- sometimes written in first person and other times adopting an omniscient third person narrator- I didn't really chart the changes but I felt that it not only tied the different main characters together but gave the readers a fuller perspective on their lives. The stories also seem to move from personal ones to stories of patients and these stories are interwoven- what I like about this is that you see the doctor's shift of focus, where there is a great deal of focus on the patient's lives (as their patients become the doctor's focus, over their personal lives for a while). After patient-centric stories, the stories pan back to career hazards and the comfort of personal life, echoing doctors' constant shifts between selfless work and personal life. Finally, what I love most is that his writing is practical yet nuanced, mimicking the practical worldview doctors must have in order to get through their education and careers. The book humanises doctors, who seem to always have to act their roles in front of everyone they encounter (an idea from the book), and shows readers that doctors are much more than just their title. The dark humour, the questioning of their acting, the clear hopelessness of certain cases that they still have to attend to, the moral questions, the problem with caring too much, the imminent death that people seem to think that doctors are immune to - the alcoholic heartbroken doctor, the doctors who died, the doctors who got married: these are the things that show the reader a world we rarely see. Great for readers who know a doctor/med student personally; a loved one of mine is a medical student, and so many parts of the book reminded me of her, making me think that for a moment I can see through her (future) eyes. Anyway, my favourite shorts were Winston and Contact Tracing, the latter made me rather emotional as the doctors and nurses had to undergo something so chillingly in their faces- an epidemic that I was too young to feel the weight of when it happened - the storytelling was really heartbreaking and reminiscent of a dark time for those in the medical field.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Steven Buechler

    A great examination of how doctors are normal people too. I just wish I had known about the Glossary of terms in the back of the book when I had started reading it. Page 324 5:25 - Suddenly awake "Dr. Chen." A face, a curtain pulled aside, I can't see who. "Unnhh?" "Dr. Chen!" "Yeah I'm awake!" A panic, a heart-pounding proclamation, "I'm awake." Did I say that twice? I'm not sure what I said and what I dreamt. "Brady at thirty. Pressure of fifty on nothing, ETA three minutes." The voice I think it's a n A great examination of how doctors are normal people too. I just wish I had known about the Glossary of terms in the back of the book when I had started reading it. Page 324 5:25 - Suddenly awake "Dr. Chen." A face, a curtain pulled aside, I can't see who. "Unnhh?" "Dr. Chen!" "Yeah I'm awake!" A panic, a heart-pounding proclamation, "I'm awake." Did I say that twice? I'm not sure what I said and what I dreamt. "Brady at thirty. Pressure of fifty on nothing, ETA three minutes." The voice I think it's a nurse. Where're my glasses? Did I fall asleep? Of course I did - that strange instant sleep I can't remember happening, where one second I had the awareness of waterfalls and curtains, the now this fuzzy face-voice. Shit, where are my glasses? Brady at thirty Probably new heart block. Stumble into shoes. My feet night-swollen, I stuff my wallet, my Palm Pilot into pockets. The nausea. Where the heck - Oh screw the glasses. No, I need the glasses. I can't run this thing blind. Sick feeling. I stand at the sink. Heave, dry heave, spit, gargle a little water Feels a bit better. Stunned, echoing awakeness. Brady. Jeez, couldn't wait a few hours? I feel around the tray, then the cart next to it. I pad around until I feel the wire of my glasses. Aha! Once on my face , the make the light glaring, hard. Now that I can see, I realize my headache.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kaija

    I'm not sure why, but I avoided this book a for a long time. I heard how good it was, but I just wasn't drawn to it. I actually regret not reading it sooner. This was the author's first book (he has since written several more). A doctor by profession, he decided to write about what he knew. Each chapter you follow someone new, but with whom you've been introduced albeit briefly. It's like following a friend of a friend. You know they exist, but not much more than that. The characters were well de I'm not sure why, but I avoided this book a for a long time. I heard how good it was, but I just wasn't drawn to it. I actually regret not reading it sooner. This was the author's first book (he has since written several more). A doctor by profession, he decided to write about what he knew. Each chapter you follow someone new, but with whom you've been introduced albeit briefly. It's like following a friend of a friend. You know they exist, but not much more than that. The characters were well developed, especially for usually only getting a chapter, or two. I always hate when I don't think characters are real people. They're either perfect, or so terrible that you don't know they could exist. That does not happen in this book. Each person is someone I could see knowing. A good person, but maybe not the best person. I did want to know more about different characters. I think the point was not to give too much away, so I think it mostly worked. I did have an issue with the ending because I felt like I hit a brick wall on turning to the last page. I felt like it was left unfinished. Maybe that's the point, but as a result that's my biggest draw back to this book. I am interested in reading more from this author to see he has progressed.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ronald Leung

    I generally approach books about medicine with some trepidation, given it is already so familiar, but I very much enjoyed this collection of linked short stories. It follows a 4 medical students who go on to become residents and staff physicians and providing slices of the essential flavours of a career in medicine: stress and possibly burnout with glimmers of human connection throughout. Everything from the earlier parts of the novel when the characters are working to get into medical school to I generally approach books about medicine with some trepidation, given it is already so familiar, but I very much enjoyed this collection of linked short stories. It follows a 4 medical students who go on to become residents and staff physicians and providing slices of the essential flavours of a career in medicine: stress and possibly burnout with glimmers of human connection throughout. Everything from the earlier parts of the novel when the characters are working to get into medical school towards the latter bits of the SARS outbreak and subtleties of the emergency department are well-written in an unflashy way. The particular choice of which of the 4 characters get to narrate with each story also seems particularly nuanced as various voices fade in and out of the overall arc of the story.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Raven

    This book wasn’t at all what I expected, however if I had read the description on the back of the book it may have helped me be more prepared. It was a good read, I have definitely had a few of the same experiences and feelings in my medical career that these doctors experienced. I don’t know if would have understood or enjoyed the book as much as I did if I didn’t have a medical background. Lam used a lot of medical terminology, I know that there is a glossary in the back but using it would def This book wasn’t at all what I expected, however if I had read the description on the back of the book it may have helped me be more prepared. It was a good read, I have definitely had a few of the same experiences and feelings in my medical career that these doctors experienced. I don’t know if would have understood or enjoyed the book as much as I did if I didn’t have a medical background. Lam used a lot of medical terminology, I know that there is a glossary in the back but using it would definitely interrupt the flow of the stories, and if he didn’t use this terminology the stories wouldn’t have been as realistic. I would definitely recommend this book to my fellow health care workers.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    this book single handedly rekindled my drive to study medicine again. loveee

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Bacque

    Interesting read but overall fairly depressing and I felt like there were some stories left unfinished at the end.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Marsha

    This was a fascinating book giving us an amazing insight into the world of physician trainees and emergency doctors and the challenges that they experience. Each chapter is its’ own story yet there is continuity across the chapters that involve the four central and interconnected characters. Many of the stories were touching and the author’s insights into human nature are both fascinating and tender. As a reader, I cared about each of these personalities and their individual challenges. A couple This was a fascinating book giving us an amazing insight into the world of physician trainees and emergency doctors and the challenges that they experience. Each chapter is its’ own story yet there is continuity across the chapters that involve the four central and interconnected characters. Many of the stories were touching and the author’s insights into human nature are both fascinating and tender. As a reader, I cared about each of these personalities and their individual challenges. A couple of the chapters were quite medically graphic and a little harder to take in, such as the chapter on autopsies. Given the timeliness of my reading this book while we are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, the chapter on the SARS epidemic and its appearance in Toronto was fascinating and disturbingly prescient. Although I like the idea of closure when I’m reading novels or short stories, I understood that it was the author’s intention to leave us wondering about the patients’ and the doctors’ eventual outcomes. After all, this nicely mirrors the experience of medical professionals working in hospitals and emergency rooms as they may never fully know what has happened to some of their patients after their work has been completed. All in all it was very poignant and touching. My only disappointment was in the choice of focus for the last chapter. I turned the last page and was surprised to realize that the book was over. It was a very anticlimactic ending and I would’ve liked to have a final chapter that offered a bit more of a conclusion for the book. But otherwise I really enjoyed this collection of stories.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sara G

    This book was sadly disappointing. I'm surprised it won the Giller Prize. I really liked this author's The Headmaster's Wager and loved that Percival Chen shows up as a minor character in one of these short stories, but ultimately most of the book was just sort of dull and dry. They're a loosely connected set of stories around doctors, following the same people from medical school applications up through later in life careers. The story "Contact Tracing" about SARS was painfully timely with the This book was sadly disappointing. I'm surprised it won the Giller Prize. I really liked this author's The Headmaster's Wager and loved that Percival Chen shows up as a minor character in one of these short stories, but ultimately most of the book was just sort of dull and dry. They're a loosely connected set of stories around doctors, following the same people from medical school applications up through later in life careers. The story "Contact Tracing" about SARS was painfully timely with the COVID situation right now, but there's not much else memorable here.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    The overall idea this book offers is very interesting. It was fun to see the different experiences and situations that doctors could undergo. But that being said I felt as though the first half of the book was based primarily on random character relationships and background that actually had little to do with the overall story. The end of the book was more interesting than the beginning. Although it was a unique read, it won’t be one at the top of my list.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Krystina

    A word of warning to the still reading: If you picked up this book because you were excited about the premise and are really interested in medicine, but now you're stuck somwhere in the dreary middle of the "Winston" chapter, or considering giving up on this book entirely after the first 100 pages, I hear you girl. Muscle through. The last few stories will reward you. It's a slow start for sure, but I'm glad I decided to finish this one. A word of warning to the still reading: If you picked up this book because you were excited about the premise and are really interested in medicine, but now you're stuck somwhere in the dreary middle of the "Winston" chapter, or considering giving up on this book entirely after the first 100 pages, I hear you girl. Muscle through. The last few stories will reward you. It's a slow start for sure, but I'm glad I decided to finish this one.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Colleen Earle

    Really fascinating novel Liked how it was connected short stories. Deals with mortality, complexities on medicine, alcoholism and lost loves Characters have great dimension and are very real. Parts about SARS were the second hardest to read. Working in a hospital has definitely given me a different perspective on this novel than it would have otherwise. Excellent.

  23. 5 out of 5

    PhebeAnn

    2.5 stars. I mean, this was okay. I liked it less as it went on and the characters, to me, became less likeable, constrained by their careers and the medical system. It was an interesting window into the world of medical practice, especially emergency medicine, but it certainly didn’t paint a very appealing picture. Probably an honest one though. The writing was competent, but not brilliant.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Amazing. Couldn't put it down! Amazing. Couldn't put it down!

  25. 5 out of 5

    crumble

    The book grew on me...some chapters more than others. Didn't like the initial characters as much as the later stories. The book grew on me...some chapters more than others. Didn't like the initial characters as much as the later stories.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Fadilah

    Listennnnn this book IS THE VIBE okay especially now it's so relevant to what's happening in the world (especially with corona) also this guy's writing is OFF THE CHARTS and he's just super good and also this book just opened my eyes and I feel ~aware~ now and overall amazing book wow I am amazed and shocked and happy and I think y'all should read it for the vibes and knowledge Listennnnn this book IS THE VIBE okay especially now it's so relevant to what's happening in the world (especially with corona) also this guy's writing is OFF THE CHARTS and he's just super good and also this book just opened my eyes and I feel ~aware~ now and overall amazing book wow I am amazed and shocked and happy and I think y'all should read it for the vibes and knowledge

  27. 5 out of 5

    gaby

    Have you ever met one of those really annoying people who have had their whole entire life plan planned out since the tender age of three and they're so organized that they could probably tell you the exact second they'll die? Well if you haven't, now you have! The name's Gaby pleased to meet you! Side effects include: extreme anxiety when things don't go as plan, and a paranoiac need for everything to go your way! Jokes aside, I vividly remember the day I decided what I wanted to do in life; I w Have you ever met one of those really annoying people who have had their whole entire life plan planned out since the tender age of three and they're so organized that they could probably tell you the exact second they'll die? Well if you haven't, now you have! The name's Gaby pleased to meet you! Side effects include: extreme anxiety when things don't go as plan, and a paranoiac need for everything to go your way! Jokes aside, I vividly remember the day I decided what I wanted to do in life; I was in front of the TV with my mother at the sheer age of four when an ad came on about the critical lack of people found in the medical sector in Quebec. I remember telling my mom, "Hey! I'll fix that, I'll become a doctor!" not truly realizing the insanity that that would mean for my future.(which to be frank, still has yet to arrive). As stupid as it seems, I can't bear to break little Gaby's heart despite it being 13 years later. I'm actually planning to major in Genetics and Microbiology in year's time, but we'll limit that convo since it still gives me a lot of stress. What this seemingly useless background info is trying to demonstrate is that unlike some people, I plan to go into medicine because I have a genuine passion for the study, and helping people (yes i'm WELL aware its very very cheesy) I'm that kid who would read medical articles in my free time and spent a whole summer making a presentation on Diabetes because I thought knowing about it would help me help those in my life with it(I may be a smart child but nonetheless I'm a naive one) It's why i decided to pick up this book; because I thought with my love for medicine, I would love reading about people striving for their own passions to reach success in the medical career. I thought it would give me a better understanding of what (hopefully) is yet to come and would be a great read since I love this kind of stuff! However I unfortunately didn't account for something pre huge: My love for medicine < My love for criticizing literature. It's boring, and is very clearly written by a doctor not an author.(please don't be offended doctors of GR since I clearly still need you all for references in the future). It's unnecessarily cheesy-- i thought considering it was written by a doctor the greys anatomy feel would be omitted but i was unpleasantly wrong, the characters were terribly flat, and it instilled nothing in my four year old "let's become a doctor!" heart. meep bottom line: dreadfully boring greys anatomy in a bad way

  28. 4 out of 5

    Neil Mudde

    A great first plus Giller prize for Dr. Lam,, it gives one a good insight as to how to go about getting into medical school, never be satisfied with just 80% 100% is a must A great insight into different cultures, Ming who is Chinese, is driven through her family to reach her highest potential, along the way she shacks up with Fitzgerald, who turns out to have problems, Ming is so organized and sets a schedule for Fitzgerald which does not allow him any free time, not wanting to give the whole st A great first plus Giller prize for Dr. Lam,, it gives one a good insight as to how to go about getting into medical school, never be satisfied with just 80% 100% is a must A great insight into different cultures, Ming who is Chinese, is driven through her family to reach her highest potential, along the way she shacks up with Fitzgerald, who turns out to have problems, Ming is so organized and sets a schedule for Fitzgerald which does not allow him any free time, not wanting to give the whole story away, the book consists of several stories, which are interconnected, it follows the lives of the students, interns who then become Dr.s off course Dr Lam being a surgeon himself has had an insight into the workings of hospitals, he deals with the SARS outbreak, he mentions patients who come into the emergency department, and really are not clear why they are there, what their problem is, how long they have had it, all in all a great read, with great insights into human beings, and a health care system. I am amazed at times that there are people in this world as is in Dr Lam.s ( who by the way is from Vietnamese origing) is a brilliant surgeon and a author as well In our bookclub we talked as we have on previous ocassions about Giller prize winners, although not in this case, some winners seem to have had connections with members of the Canadian Authors Establishment, there were some comments about Dr Lam meeting Margaret Atwood, whose praising comments are listed on the book

  29. 5 out of 5

    kingshearte

    Short stories are not really my favourite type of reading, but this was here, and I'd heard good things about it, so I read it. It was actually really good, despite having won a Canadian literary award. I found almost all the stories very interesting and quite compelling. However. It still had the various issues that make me not really care for the short story as a form. Although you do get some insight, in the context of whatever the current situation being painted is, you don't really get to kn Short stories are not really my favourite type of reading, but this was here, and I'd heard good things about it, so I read it. It was actually really good, despite having won a Canadian literary award. I found almost all the stories very interesting and quite compelling. However. It still had the various issues that make me not really care for the short story as a form. Although you do get some insight, in the context of whatever the current situation being painted is, you don't really get to know the characters. And the lack of closure just irritates me. On one hand, that's kind of a neat device in a medical kind of context, because doctors send patients on their way, either home or to another doctor, all the time. More often than not, they don't really get to have any closure on those patients. So in that respect, I didn't mind it. But a little closure on the doctors themselves, and their life situations, would have been good. For example, in one story, a couple of the doctors become SARS patients, and get pretty sick. We know one of them survives, because he appears in a later story. But the other one? The last we hear is that he's in critical condition. Does he make it? We don't know. And that bothers me. So the upshot here is that if, like me, you don't really care for short stories, you'll probably think these are pretty darn good anyway. And if you do like short stories, this should definitely be on your list.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    This book has been sitting on my shelves for the better part of a decade. I bought it during my brief phase where I was convinced I wanted to go into the medical field (before remembering that I'm terrified of all bodily fluids and hate people), and once that phase had passed, never got around to reading it. I'm glad that I finally picked it up, because I absolutely loved it! The interconnected stories in this collection follow four doctors through various stages in their careers, as their lives This book has been sitting on my shelves for the better part of a decade. I bought it during my brief phase where I was convinced I wanted to go into the medical field (before remembering that I'm terrified of all bodily fluids and hate people), and once that phase had passed, never got around to reading it. I'm glad that I finally picked it up, because I absolutely loved it! The interconnected stories in this collection follow four doctors through various stages in their careers, as their lives intersect and part and intersect again. Everything flows together beautifully. There's no concrete endings for any of the characters (apart from Sri) and large swatches of their lives are missing from the picture, but Lam manages to pull it off without it feeling unfinished or unsatisfying. There's not a bad story among them. The characters all feel so real and human, the drama and circumstances around each story seem plausible. The medical details aren't too over-the-top, nor are they dumbed down to a point of feeling condescending. The characters are human first and doctors second. I felt connected to each of them, and I wanted more when I finished the collection!

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