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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures: Stories


Author Vincent Lam studied medicine in Toronto where he is now an emergency room doctor. Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, a collection of twelve short stories about medical school and the personal challenges that young doctors face in their new profession, is his prize-winning literary debut.

Lam's stories focus on the struggles of four University of Ottawa students as they make their way from university, to medical school, and on to eventual medical careers in Toronto. Although the stories are not structured so that the end of one leads directly to the next, they offer clear insights into the lives of the four individuals as they progress from hopeful students to medical professionals.

In the opening story, "How to Get into Medical School, Part I," we are introduced to Fitz (short for Fitzgerald) and Ming, two university study partners in the process of gaining medical school admittance. Ming, the only female among the four main characters, and the most focused of them all, finds herself attracted to Fitz despite knowing that her Chinese parents will never approve of her relationship with anyone not of their ethnic background. Fitz finds himself struggling with both his studies and his love for Ming. The book's second story, "Take All of Murphy," introduces the always calm Chen and the overly sensitive Sri as they study human anatomy with lab partner Ming by dissecting the cadaver they have decided to call "Murphy."

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures is a frank look at the mental and physical pressures faced by four individuals as they progress from student to practicing physician. Each of Lam's stories is snapshot in time, a snapshot often taken at some critical point in the lives of one of the four as they struggle to make the right decision about some moral or ethical issue with which they are suddenly faced. The stories are somewhat uneven but, overall, they succeed remarkably well in creating four believable characters who work hard, but not always successfully, to overcome their human weaknesses so that they can be the doctors they once dreamed of being. Victor Lam reminds us that doctors, after all, are mere human beings, themselves not much different from the patients they treat, suffering the same weaknesses and frailties that we all know so well.

Rated at: 4.0
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