A loosely connected series of short stories which follows a group of four aspiring students through snapshots in time -their acceptance at medical school, their studies, and their subsequent careers as doctors. The characters are shown as flawed yet sympathetic human beings, who take risks, make mistakes and learn to bear the label and ethical complications of a ‘doctor of medicine’. The stories are skillfully written and varied -in one chapter the group of students dissects its first cadaver, in another an exhausted emergency room physician drives home in a semi-conscious stupor after the night-shift. Winner of the 2006 Giller Award, Vincent Lam drew upon his own experiences as a medical doctor to write the book.
What the Armchair Critics Thought:
We very much enjoyed this book and were excited to see Vincent Lam read from it at the Toronto’s ‘Word on the Street’ Festival. Lam showed a great sense of humour during the event and we thought he looked surprisingly young. He is still a practicing emergency room doctor, and it’s hard to imagine when he finds the time to write. While none of the book’s characters were particularly likeable, they were believable. Unlike television shows such as ER, the book provides a sense of the internal struggles and choices faced by the human beings who are called practice medicine. The book was especially gripping during its depiction of the SARS epidemic, and we were shocked to hear about the treatment of nursing staff during this crisis.