Mikey B.'s Reviews > Black Flies

Black Flies by Shannon Burke
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Mar 03, 13

bookshelves: fiction
Recommended to Mikey B. by: New york times book review
Read in April, 2009

This is a very gritty and grisly book describing the paramedics who work on the ambulances in Harlem in New York City. The job is more than draining – it corrodes the lives of most of these workers. They are faced with rescuing many patients who are at the dead-end of society – drug addicts, homeless people, gang members… Most of the public loathe them. It’s a thankless job.

The book is narrated from the first-person. The job and the people doing it are vividly described. Like most jobs there are good and bad individuals, but due to the nature of the work the ‘bad’ individuals are empowered and become abusive.

The power of this book is that we feel the narrator being swept in by all aspects of what he encounters on the job. Like most jobs in takes you within its confines and you become submerged within it – like a member of a cult. You become accepted by your co-workers and it is only your co-workers who relate to the unique circumstances of the work environment. As the story progresses the narrator becomes alienated from friends and family – they become outsiders to his working realm, not part of his world. The work becomes so dominate that burn-out symptoms become unrecognizable.

The extreme nature of the paramedics work makes this well worth reading. Unlike many other works of fiction we are not burdened with an over excess of words and pages.

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