Summary and book reviews of Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures

Stories

By Vincent Lam

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2007,
    362 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2008,
    362 pages.

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Book Summary

Provocative, heartbreaking, and darkly humorous, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures introduces readers to a masterful new voice in fiction. A practicing ER physician, Vincent Lam delivers a precise and intimate portrait of the medical profession in his fiction debut. These twelve interwoven stories follow a group of young doctors as they move from the challenges of medical school to the intense world of emergency rooms, evacuation missions, and terrifying new viruses. Winner of the prestigious Giller Prize, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures marks the arrival of a deeply humane and preternaturally gifted writer.

Fitz, Ming, Chen, and Sri are the four ambitious protagonists of Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures. They fall in love as they study for their exams, face moral dilemmas as they split open cadavers, confront police who rough up their patients, and treat schizophrenics with pathologies similar to their own. In one harrowing story set amidst the 2003 SARS crisis, which the author witnessed firsthand, two of these doctors suddenly become the patients.

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures invites us into a world where the ordinary becomes the critical in a matter of seconds. A formidable debut, it is a profound and unforgettable depiction of today’s doctors, patients, and hospitals.

The following is the complete text of "How to Get Into Medical School, Part I", from Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures.

HOW TO GET INTO MEDICAL SCHOOL, PART I

Desperate stragglers arrived late for the molecular biology final examination, their feet wet from tramping through snowbanks and their faces damp from running. Some still wore coats, and rummaged in the pockets for pens. Entering the exam hall, a borrowed gymnasium, from the whipping chaos of the snowstorm was to be faced with a void. Eyeglasses fogged, xenon lamps burned their blue-tinged light, and the air was calm with its perpetual fragrance of old paint. The lamps buzzed, and their constant static was like a sheet pulled out from under the snowstorm, though low enough that the noise vanished quickly. Proctors led latecomers to vacant seats among the hundreds of desks, each evenly spaced at the University of Ottawa’s minimum requisite distance.

The invigilators allowed them to sit the exam but, ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In this book, it might not seem that medical school is designed to foster individualism. When are there moments in which the doctors, the professionals, reveal their personal self?
  2. What events root these stories in a particular time? Do you see references to outside news? What about SARS? Does the intense focus of the stories capture the funneled lives of physicians, especially in the E.R. and obstetrics?
  3. What does it mean to be Chinese in Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures? Is it even relevant most of the time? The characters are doctors and people with little sense of their immigrant background. However, when are the few times that being Chinese is made explicit?
  4. In "Take All of Murphy," the anatomy ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Readers will find Lam's stories far more grounded in reality than the sensationalized medical dramas served up all too frequently on TV - perhaps because Lam is not only an emergency room doctor himself but also does not own a TV! Although three of the four doctors who star in his stories are of Asian descent, ethnicity has only a peripheral role to play. Center stage are the small moral dilemmas faced by emergency room doctors every day, and the tension caused by facing a life and death decision in one room, and walking straight out to potentially face another in the next.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Author Blurb Sherman Alexie, bestselling author of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and Flight
Vincent Lam's book is amazing, beautiful, and painful. I cannot believe that a writer can emerge, so fully-formed and incisive, with his first book. This guy is a star.

Author Blurb Margaret Atwood
Direct in style, unsparing though compassionate in observation, subtle in emotion, and occasionally gruesome in humor,

The Globe & Mail - John Allemang

This is Lam's first book, but apart from a too-deferential tribute to Margaret Atwood in the acknowledgments and a certain awkwardness in bringing each tale to a close - artistic symmetries and rhetorical crescendos being inconsistent, perhaps, with a scientific world view - Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures radiates the confidence you expect from a man whose other job is to make stalled hearts start. The advantage of fiction? Here, even the medical failures come to life, vividly.

The Toronto Star - Judy Stoffman

[A] running start at a high-voltage literary career that has received the endorsement of Margaret Atwood and Wayson Choy.

The Ottawa Citizen - Paul Gessell

Human emotions, not medical science, dominate the stories of Bloodletting. Lam has, in effect, put humanity back into medicine. That's a relief after [Canada] has just passed through yet one more election campaign where medicine was all politics, balance sheets, waiting lists and endless pain.

Library Journal

Written in a straightforward manner and including a helpful glossary of medical terms, this is a good addition to every fiction collection.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The stories' quiet strength lies not in the doctors' education but in Lam's portrayal of the flawed humans behind the surgical masks.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A searing, perfectly paced set of linked stories.

Reader Reviews
Julie

Riveting Read!
What an outstanding book! I absolutely loved this multi-faceted story about four medical students, following them from their first years in medical school, then as they moved on to their internships, and finally as full-fledged doctors. Each ...   Read More

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Dr. Vincent Lam

Dr. Vincent Lam was born in London, Ontario. His family emigrated from Vietnam during the Vietnam War and he grew up in Ottawa speaking Cantonese at home. He did his medical training in Toronto, where he now lives and works as an emergency physician. He also does international air evacuation work and expedition medicine on Arctic and Antarctic ships. Now aged 33 but so young looking that he claims he sometimes still gets carded, he is married with a 3-year-old boy named Theodore.

Lam made his ...

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