Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures: Stories

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Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures: Stories

by Vincent Lam

September 26, 2006 | Trade Paperback

3.3846 out of 5 rating. 13 Reviews
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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.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 368 pages, 3.15 × 2.05 × 0.37 in

Published: September 26, 2006

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385661444

ISBN - 13: 9780385661447

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– More About This Product –

Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures: Stories

by Vincent Lam

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 368 pages, 3.15 × 2.05 × 0.37 in

Published: September 26, 2006

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385661444

ISBN - 13: 9780385661447

Read from the Book

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. Invigilators 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, toward the end of the allotted period, ignored their pleas for extra time on account of the storm. Ming, who had finished early, centred her closed exam booklet in front of her. Fitzgerald was still hunched over his paper. She didn’t want to wait outside for him, preferring it to be very coincidental that she would leave the room at the same time he did. Hopefully he would suggest they go for lunch together. If he did not ask, she would be forced to, perhaps using a little joke. Ming tended to stumble over humour. She could ask what he planned to do this afternoon – was that the kind of thing people said? On scrap paper,
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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
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Editorial Reviews

"[A] compelling first book of fiction. … It adds up to a running start at a high-voltage literary career."
-Toronto Star

"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."
-National Post

"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.

Bookclub Guide

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 his patient.

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?

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