Format: eBook, 368 pages
Publisher: Anchor Canada
ISBN: 978-0-307-37202-4 (0-307-37202-2)
Pub Date: March 16, 2009
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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.
From the Hardcover edition.
WINNER 2006 - Scotiabank Giller Prize
FINALIST 2007 - Toronto Book Award
“[A] compelling first book of fiction. … It adds up to a running start at a high-voltage literary career.”
“Bloodletting & 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 Globe and Mail
“Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures is a satisfying, engrossing read, partly because of the intrinsically fascinating subject matter, but also because of Lam’s patient characterizations and understanding of the human heart.”
“There’s no information like inside information, and Lam puts his to good use … [his] fiction strikes a balance between clinical and emotional detail. . . . [An] impressive first book, by all appearances.”
—The Ottawa Citizen
"Vincent Lam crafts sentences that veteran writers will covet. His fresh and stunning talent will satisfy all readers who hunger for powerful stories."
–Wayson Choy, author of All That Matters
From the Hardcover edition.
About this Author
Vincent Lam was born in 1974 in London, Ont., into a family from the expatriate Chinese community of Vietnam. Four years later, they moved to Ottawa where he was raised on stories told by his father and the works of C.S. Lewis and Roald Dahl, and developed aspirations to become a writer. Acknowledging that he hadn’t seen enough of the world to create great literary works, Lam enrolled in medical school at the University of Toronto, hoping it would provide real-life experience and a wealth of rich material. His plan proved to be a very good one.
It was while working as a doctor aboard an Arctic cruise that Lam had a chance encounter with renowned author Margaret Atwood. She agreed to read his short stories, and later sent him an email announcing “Congratulations. You can write.” Atwood mentored the young author, and was instrumental in bringing Lam to his publisher, Doubleday Canada.
While crafting his debut collection of short stories, Lam worked in the emergency room at Toronto East General Hospital and helped fight the 2003 SARS outbreak. “An emergency physician is often in the centre of a storm of tensions and drama,” he says. “We work in a world that is both medical and personal, where the stakes are high and events are unpredictable. As a doctor, I respond to the world around me, and act within that world. As a writer, I do something fresh and new on the page.”
Lam’s depiction of four medical students who become doctors in Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures was so unique and accomplished that the collection won the 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize – Canada’s most prestigious literary award. He is the youngest writer, and the only first-time author, to win it.
Next up is Lam’s first novel, Cholon, Near Forgotten, which follows a Chinese man in Saigon, headmaster of an English school as well as a compulsive gambler, during the Vietnam War. Shaftesbury Films is currently developing Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures into a TV drama series for The Movie Network and Lam will act as a consultant while continuing to work as an emergency physician in Toronto, where he lives with his wife and son.
From the Hardcover edition.
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