Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Review Time

If you’re addicted to all those medical drama shows on TV, have a secret desire to be a doctor (or a not-so-secret regret that you never went to medical school) or are just plain fascinated by the ins and outs of the world of medicine, read Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam (2006 Giller Prize Winner). (Check out the link for a detailed summary.)

This is a fascinating, well-written book of fiction — not only a pleasure to read but a learning experience to boot. There’s even a Glossary of Terms for the truly addicted doctor/medical fan.

Author Vincent Lam is an Emergency Room physician in Toronto — he knows whereof he speaks. As I read the book, I kept wondering how he found the time to write a book and practice medicine. This is one disciplined individual. Each of the twelve chapters is a story unto itself — with a recurring cast of characters. Scariest story? The one on SARS. I had no idea how frightening conditions were within the hospitals during that time.

“Santa” gave this book to son # 3 who aspires to be a doctor. In keeping with this blog’s family participation as to book reviews, I interviewed him. He was lying on the couch doing absolutely nothing (not even watching TV) and thus was unable to plead that he was “too busy.” Gotcha.

“Give me something for my book review.”

“It seemed realistic.”

“Try again. Give me more.”

“I could relate to the character Fitzgerald – minus his dependencies.”

(That was actually a good thing for a mother to hear.)


“All right. I liked the realistic moments, like when the doctors say they’re taught in med school to sit down with patients in the ER because doing that makes them seem like they care.”

(A bit of a cynic, this kid of mine?)

“Okay, that was good. You’re off the hook.”

Here’s the part he was referring to and it is good — one of those fascinating tidbits Lam lets you in on.

“Always sit down with the patient, I was taught. It makes it seem like you’ve spent more time and that you care. In a chair, on the stretcher. If you give this impression (this is the subtext) then the patients will do what you say and leave quickly.”

I am definitely going to remember this the next time a doctor “takes the time” to pull up a chair and sit with me.

Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures is full of interesting “insider” information such as this — and much more.

Read it. Enjoy. Learn.


Attila The Mom said...

Oooh, sounds like it's right up my alley! Thanks for the review!

Beth said...

attila: Enjoy! We certainly did.

oreneta said...

I was rooting for him with the prize, watched him win it. He apparently had a shift that started at noon, if memory serves, and got up in the morning to write, and them went off to the hospital. He is presumably single, or has the most considerate spouse/partner whatever on the planet....

Glad to hear it is good. Atwood was backing it, and I find her so remorselessly depressing it gave me pause.

Beth said...

thanks! I was looking for anew book to read and this one sounds good...I like those medical mystery type of books

Anonymous said...

My sister-in-law is a medical doctor and read this book. She liked it and said that it was a very accurate depiction of her profession...the good and the bad.

I haven't read it yet but it's on my list

Beth said...

oreneta: He's married to a doctor and has a child (13 months old?). What a life.
Uh-oh re: Atwood. I've got a review of her book Moral Disorder to post. But this novel is not depressing!

beth: The bonus with this book is that you feel like you've learned something - you come away feeling smarter! (Or you think you are, anyway.)

trish: The reality parts are a bit jarring (i.e. what doctors are really thinking) but that just makes it all the more fascinating.

rebecca said...

Great review/recommendation. And I'm totally jealous of writers with that much discipline. I can't help it.

Beth said...

rebecca: Neither can I - as I as I flip from writing to blogging to writing...
Got to stay focused!

Dorky Dad said...

Thanks for the review. Have you ever read anything by Atul Gawande? He writes non-fiction, but I love his writing style.

Beth said...

dorky dad: Have never read Atul Gawande. Just checked him out on and have added two of his books ("Complications:" and "Better:") to my "wish list" for my son - and myself. (I'm one of those "wish I'd gone to med school" types.)
Thanks for the tip.