rabbitprincess's Reviews > Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam
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's review
Jan 13, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: bibliotheque, oh-canada, 2010, family-friends-acquaintances-recs
Recommended to rabbitprincess by: Julia
Recommended for: people who like realistic medical stories
Read from January 18 to 22, 2010

** spoiler alert ** A very good collection of stories, especially considering that this was the author's first book! He has faithfully followed the maxim of "write what you know", drawing on his experiences as an emergency room physician to write a series of short stories connected by four protagonists (Chen, Ming, Sri and Fitz) as they make their way through medical school and eventually come to terms with their work as doctors, dealing with personal problems and how they relate to their patients. He is a very vivid writer, with well-chosen details and of course a mastery of the medical jargon, but it does not seem an excessive amount of jargon (indeed, there is a glossary of medical terms at the back of the book, at least in the edition I read).

Apart from the medical scenarios, another thing Lam does well is give a sense of place. Or perhaps this is true for people who have been to or lived in Ottawa or Toronto. Since I am familiar with these cities, the details he chose for his stories really brought back memories for me and I could picture the scene very clearly, especially the bike accident -- as soon as the narrator mentioned the intersection that Fitz was approaching, I thought "OH NO he's going to get hit by a bus." It's rather a dangerous intersection for cyclists.

One story that was particularly interesting was "Winston", about a man who has a psychotic break. The reader is immersed in his viewpoint for a great deal of the story, and the way Lam brings in reality and simply presents the two competing perspectives is really good. It would make an excellent topic of discussion in an English class.

My favourite story would probably be "Contact Tracing", probably because it does an excellent job of showcasing Lam's medical writing and makes the reader really emotionally invested in the characters. I also enjoyed the consultation notes, if only because I translate medical reports and am somewhat familiar with the format. The only criticism I would have for this story is that Sri's death offstage (discussed briefly by Chen and Fitz) seemed rather gratuitous. This is probably my biggest criticism overall, that and maybe a couple of stories are too open-ended. Most of them ended with just enough closure for my liking, though.

To sum up, this is a great book, and if you've been on the fence about it, go pick it up. It's thought-provoking, educational and an absorbing read.

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Reading Progress

01/19/2010 page 106
28.8% "Engrossing details, evocative setting, good characters."
01/20/2010 page 189
51.36% "The story about Winston had an interesting twist."
01/21/2010 page 306
83.15% "The SARS story was very well written."
01/22/2010 page 368
100.0% "Hey, a glossary of medical terminology! Cool!"

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