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Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures (Limited Edition): Special Limited Edition [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Vincent Lam
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 28 2007
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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From Amazon

Winner of the 2006 Giller Prize, Lam has assembled a collection of short stories that follows four characters from their student days, through medical school and into their careers as doctors. Ming is a perfectionist with a dark past and overbearing traditional parents. When she starts dating Fitz, she must keep it a secret from her family. Meanwhile, Chen and Sri, their closest colleagues, join them in cutting up cadavers as they learn the fragile mysteries of the human body. Lam’s prose reads as smoothly as a scalpel slicing flesh (despite a plethora of technical jargon) as he reveals the realities of operating and emergency rooms, air ambulance flights and maternity wards. Lam is capable of fine descriptions (the "melon color" of afternoon light) as well as striking awkwardness ("Entering the exam hall…from the whipping chaos of the snowstorm was to be faced with a void.") The power of these stories is his ability to allow the reader to empathize with both victim and healer. Although a few of the stories feel like scenes from ER, several work extremely well. A harrowing story about the SARS epidemic ("Contact Tracing"), set in a Toronto hospital, gives the reader an intimate, inside view, while a story that explores the mind of a psychotic ("Winston") can leave the reader feeling unnerved and groundless. --Mark Frutkin --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Winner of Canada's Giller Prize, Lam puts all the sex, and death and sleep deprivation crucial to any hospital drama in his debut story collection about doctors in the making. Thankfully Lam, an emergency room physician, looks beyond blood and guts to examine the conflicted hearts and minds of the four medical students sleepwalking their way through the required tests, dissections and all-night emergency room shifts. The stories trace an almost endless stretch of education and service that puts their stamina and skills to the test: Fitz (short for Fitzgerald) has a not-so-secret drinking problem, the fallout from which that lands him an unexpected job; Ming, the main cast's only woman, has a cold scientist's outlook that both aids and hinders her; Sri's heart breaks for anything that comes near his scalpel—be it a tattooed cadaver or a rambling psychotic; and dispassionate Chen struggles, like Sri, to balance compassion with his desire to succeed. The stories' quiet strength lies not in the doctors' education but in Lam's portrayal of the flawed humans behind the surgical masks. This collection made a big splash in Canada, and, as Weinstein Books' first title, is poised to do the same in the U.S. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Straight to the Heart Jan. 7 2008
Format:Paperback
As an Obstetric Resident, Bloodletting was like speaking to someone who truly felt the intensity of the day- to-day life of a physician. I couldn't put it down, and read the whole thing front to back sitting lopsided in an uncomfortable chair. His story "an insistent tide" stuck a particular cord with me, he did an excellent job of capturing the acuity of a cord prolapse and the emotions that accompany the shift from a normal healthy birth to an emergency situation. My heart was pounding. Well done!
-Dr. Anne Berndl, Author; "So You Want to Be a Doctor, Eh?"
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit average Nov. 14 2006
Format:Paperback
This collection of short stories has some interesting moments, but the book is highly uneven, with some weak work towards the center that gets a bit better towards the end. This collection is not for readers who seek a memorable literary experience. The work is more akin to a reality TV show, and relies heavily on the drama that medicine affords gratis instead of literary virtuosity or masterful story telling.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bought this book for school. I don't read much but I enjoyed this book quite a lot. Enough for me to actively get involved with discussions and write a final essay on it. Incredible book, I loved it.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Average tale of the medical world Jan. 11 2007
By B. NH
Format:Paperback
As a medical student myself, I did not find this collection of short stories to be that powerful, captivating nor truly interesting. It was a quick read, but the characters weren't memorable. The stories are life-like, but seeing as I live this everyday, didn't find the stories too entertaining.

For medical stories, I preferred Complications by Atul Gawande. Despite Complications' documentary style, it was informative, funny and enlightening.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First, Do No Harm! April 1 2006
Format:Hardcover
'Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures' is an excellent debut collection of stories, especially "How to Get Into Medical School Part I". Lam has created a number of recurring characters that I enjoyed following throughout the collection. The relationship between Fitzgerald and Ming is full of tension and disappointment which Lam handles with a deft hand.
Vincent Lam is a writer to watch.
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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dissonant Nov. 18 2006
Format:Paperback
This review is based on the first hundred pages or so (the first four stories), since I felt that was an appropriate amount of time spent waiting to be captivated, impressed, compelled to continue reading. Sadly I was not.

Reading this book has helped me to define the saying "Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story". To explain: it is obvious that Lam has taken stories or anecdotes directly from what he has seen or heard in the medical field. With this I have no problem. But I can see where his desire to inform impedes on the story. To speak musically, the leitmotif of his Take All of Murphy is the scene where the characters suffer the moral dilemma of either satisfying medical procedure and cutting through the symbol (tattoo) of a man's life, or harmlessly slicing around it. An excellent idea (in fact it was someone's summary of that idea which moved me to pick up the book in the first place). Every little inflection and melody of the story should revolve around this moment. But Lam creates great discord by straying from the truth and trailing off into exposition. All of the italicised parts of this story (where we are shown snippets of past interviews and such) should have been cut. There is an overall sense of weakness in the prose. A lightness. There is no, shall I say, muscle to it.

This critique serves well for the first four stories I read. Some had good ideas (for this Lam earns a star), but they were drawn out, lost somewhere in mediocre craft, poor pacing, and a missing sense for mood.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Strangely underwhelming Jan. 16 2007
Format:Paperback
I have read way more powerful and meaningful short stories in my life, and these, while somewhat intersting, at times meander and ultimately lose their point.

It's a rare gift to develop a character in such a way that the reader cares what happens to him/her in a short period of time, and sadly if most of these people died a horrible death I doubt anyone would bat an eyelash.

The stories are not particularly eye-opening, insightful, poignant or any other adjective that works for great writing. It's just a meandering stream of consciousness about people whose lives you don't care about. The fact that it won an award means little as most award winning books I've read were not that great. Same goes for a lot of classics.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Empty for short stories Nov. 27 2006
Format:Paperback
This was a birthday gift, so I didn't buy it here, but thought i would still review it. It was mediocre at best, and that surprised me because the subject matter has so much potential to be more interesting than this. I'm not sure why but I found myself having trouble getting through the stories, even though they were short reads. Some far better short story collections can be found with Stephen King's "Everythings Eventual," or Nancy Madore's "Enchanted" (an excellent choice of gift for the woman in your life), or Ann Patchetts "The Best American Short Stories" (entertaining for the whole family)
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing
Great characters with surprising lives. I love how all of the stories contain at least one of or favourite doctors, and that the point of view changes frequently from first to... Read more
Published 6 months ago by kkmercurie
4.0 out of 5 stars Left wanting more
It was disappointing to start getting into each short story then to be left hanging... I couldn't put the book down. Read more
Published on Oct. 2 2011 by Robyn C
4.0 out of 5 stars The Realities of Modern Medicine
For those who don't like the short-story format, this is not the book for you. While there is no big deciding moment that unifies all these unique personal experiences of young... Read more
Published on May 31 2011 by Ian Gordon Malcomson
4.0 out of 5 stars Bloodletting and Miraculous Cure
I found the book thought provoking and emotional.
Great exterior. A few pages in bad condition, but considering the price- it was a steal!
Good delivery time.
Published on Feb. 20 2011 by C. Lau
2.0 out of 5 stars Promising writer but not so great book
Like other reviewers I had high expectations for this book. It had won the Giller Prize and had received a certain amount of hype. Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2010 by lilian
3.0 out of 5 stars Meh - could take it or leave it
I recently finished Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures. This book was the winner of the Giller Prize in 2006 and was recommended to me by a friend. Read more
Published on July 20 2009 by NorthVan Dave
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a nice way to gain insights into the lives of doctors and med school students in Canada. A very easy read! Read more
Published on June 7 2009 by MD
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely well written
I have never written a review for amazon, but the poor rating of this book inspired me to write my first. Read more
Published on Feb. 7 2009 by Jason Pyper
5.0 out of 5 stars Bloodletting and Miraculou Cures
I immensely enjoyed Boodletting and Mraculous Cures. I couldn't put it down. Dr. Lam's book not only gave me a greater appreciation of what our doctors must go through in order to... Read more
Published on Oct. 13 2008 by Mrs. Pam
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
I enjoyed reading this book. It was great to get a glimpse of life as an intern/doctor. Kept my interest from beginning to end. Bravo Vincent Lam.
Published on May 30 2008 by tweetypie
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