From the Publisher
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.
About the 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.
1. Consider the personalities of Ming, Chen, Sri, and Fitz.
Which character did you most identify with and why?
2. In "How to Get into Medical School, Part 1," Ming and Fitz
talk about the "right reasons" to become physicians: service,
humanity, and giving. What other motivations do you think they each
had that weren't vocalized at the time?
3. In "Take All of Murphy," what is the significance of how
differently Ming and Chen treated the cadaver?
4. What did you find to be the most compelling moral dilemma
explored in this book?
5. When Sri is trying to diagnose his patient Winston (p.125)
Dr. Miniadis tells him: "You've heard that the sound of hoofbeats
implies the presence of horses? It is true that we must look
carefully for zebras, but for the most part we expect to find
horses." Discuss whether you think this advice helped Sri deal with
6. Discuss the various scenarios in which the characters were
forced to deal with death.
7. What part of the story "Contact Tracing" surprised you the
most, and why?
8. Why do you think the author chose to tell some stories
involving Chen ("A Long Migration," "Before Light") and Fitz
("Eli," "Night Flight") in the first person?
9. What is your final opinion of Fitz?
10. Which story did you enjoy the most and why?
11. How have these stories made you look at doctors and other
health care professionals differently?
12. The book will be made into a TV series-which actors would
you cast to play the four main characters?