Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures: Stories

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures: Stories

by Vincent Lam

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Now in paperback: Twelve interwoven stories follow four young and ambitious doctors as they move from the challenges of medical school to the intense world of emergency rooms, evacuation missions, and terrifying new viruses. They fall in love as they study for their exams, face moral dilemmas as they split open cadavers, confront police who rough up their patients, and treat schizophrenics with pathologies similar to their own. Winner of the prestigious Giller Prize, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures marks the arrival of a deeply humane and preternaturally gifted writer.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781602860384
Publisher: Weinstein Books
Publication date: 09/16/2008
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 704
File size: 267 KB
Age Range: 15 - 18 Years

About the Author

Dr. Vincent Lam was born in London, Ontario, and studied medicine in Toronto where he is now an emergency physician. Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures was awarded the 2006 Giller Prize for fiction, making him the youngest writer ever to have won the prize. His work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, the National Post, and Carve. Lam’s family is from the expatriate Chinese community of Vietnam, and his first novel, a multigenerational family saga set in Saigon during the Vietnam War, is forthcoming from Weinstein Books. Lam lives with his family in Toronto.

Read an Excerpt

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, she wrote several possible ways to phrase the question, and in doing so almost failed to notice when Fitzgerald stood up, handed in his exam, and left the room. She expected to rush after him, but hestood outside the exam hall.

“Are you waiting for someone?” she asked.

Shortly after they arrived at the Thai-Laotian café half a block from campus, Ming said deliberately, “Fitz, I simply wanted to wish you the best in your future endeavours. You are obviously intelligent, and I’m sure you will be a great success.”

The restaurant was overly warm, and Fitz struggled out of his coat, wrestled his sweater over his head, leaving his hair in a wild, electrified state. He ran his hands over his head, and instead of smoothing his hair this resulted in random clumps jutting straight up.

“Same to you,” he said, smiling at her almost excitedly.

She watched him scan the bar menu. When she asked for water, he followed suit. She liked that.
She said, “Also, thank you for explaining the Krebs cycle to me.”

“Any time,” said Fitz.

“I feel guilty that I haven’t been completely open,” said Ming. She considered her prepared phrases and selected one, saying, “It didn’t seem like the right time in the middle of exams.”

“Nothing in real life makes sense during exams,” said Fitzgerald. He tilted in the chair but kept a straight back. Ming reassured herself that he had also been anticipating “a talk,” and so–she concluded with an administrative type of resolution–it was appropriate that she had raised the topic of “them.”

She leaned forward and almost whispered, “This is awkward, but I have strong emotional suspicions. Such suspicions are not quite the same as emotions. I’m sure you can understand that distinction. I have this inkling that you have an interest in me.” She didn’t blurt it out, instead forced herself to pace these phrases. “The thing of it is that I can’t have a romantic relationship with you. Not that I want to.” Now she was off the path of her rehearsed lines. “Not that I wouldn’t want to, because there’s no specific reason that I wouldn’t, but I– Well, what I’m trying to say is that even though I don’t especially want to, if I did, then I couldn’t.” The waiter brought shrimp chips and peanut sauce. “So that’s that.”

“All right,” said Fitzgerald.

“I should have told you earlier, when I first got that feeling.”

“You’ve given the issue some thought.”

“Not much. I just wanted to clarify.”

Fitz picked up a shrimp chip by its edge, dipped it in the peanut sauce with red pepper flakes, and crunched. His face became sweaty and bloomed red as he chewed, then coughed. He grasped the water glass and took a quick gulp.

Ming said, “Are you upset?”

He coughed to his right side, and had difficulty stopping. He reminded himself to sit up straight while coughing, realized that he wasn’t covering his mouth, covered his mouth, was embarrassed that his fair skin burned hot and red, wondered in a panicky blur if this redness would be seen to portray most keenly his injured emotional state, his physical vulnerability in choking, his Anglocentric intolerance to chili, his embarrassment at not initially covering his mouth, his obvious infatuation with Ming, or–worst of all–could be interpreted as a feeble attempt to mask or distract from his discomfort at her pre-emptive romantic rejection.

Ming was grateful for this interlude, for she had now entirely forgotten her rehearsed stock of diplomatically distant but consoling though slightly superior phrases.

“Hot sauce. I’m fine,” he gasped, coughing.

There was a long restaurant pause, in which Ming was aware of the other diners talking, although she could not perceive what their conversations were about.

She said, “I’ve embarrassed us both.”

“I’m glad you mentioned it.”

“So you are interested,” she said. “Or you were interested until a moment ago. Is that why you’re glad that I mentioned it?”

“It doesn’t matter, does it? What you’ve just said has made it irrelevant. Or, it would be irrelevant if it were previously relevant, but I’m glad you brought up your feelings,” said Fitzgerald. He picked up the menu.

“Don’t feel obliged to tell me whether I needed to say what I just said.”

“It was great to study together. You’ve got a great handle on . . . on mitochondria.”

The waiter came. Ming felt unable to read the menu, and pointed at a lunch item in the middle of the page. She got up to use the bathroom, and wondered in the mirror why she had not worn lipstick – not taken a minute this morning to look good. Then, she reminded herself that she should have actually taken measures to appear unattractive. Nonetheless, Ming examined her purse for lipstick, finding only extra pens and a crumpled exam schedule. When she returned, they smiled politely at each other for a little while. They ate, and the noodles fell persistently from Fitzgerald’s chopsticks onto the plate, resisting consumption. Ming asked if he wanted a fork, and he refused. After a while, as Fitzgerald’s pad thai continued to slither from his grasp, Ming caught the waiter’s eye, who noticed Fitzgerald’s barely eaten plate and brought a fork without Ming having to ask.

Fitzgerald ate with the fork, and craved a beer.

“We’re great study partners,” said Ming, still holding her chopsticks. “I want to clarify that it’s not because of you.” She had to get into medical school this year, and therefore couldn’t allow distraction. Her family, she said, was modern in what they wanted for her education, and old-fashioned in what they imagined for her husband. They would disapprove of Fitzgerald, a non-Chinese. They would be upset with Ming, and she couldn’t take these risks while she prepared to apply for medical school. The delicate nature of this goal, upon which one must be crucially focused, superseded everything else, Ming reminded Fitzgerald. He stopped eating while she talked. She looked down, stabbed her chopsticks into the noodles, and twisted them around.

He asked, “What about you?”

“What do you mean, me?” she said.

“Telling me this. Did you feel . . . interested?”

“I thought you might be.”

“You might say that I’ve noticed you, but I accept the situation. Priorities.” The imperative of medical school applications carried the unassailable weight of a religious edict.

“Very well,” she said, as if they had clarified a business arrangement.

The bill came. Fitzgerald tried to pay and Ming protested. He said that she could get the bill next time and she insisted that they should share.

From the Hardcover edition.

What People are Saying About This

Margaret Atwood

Direct in style, unsparing though compassionate in observation, subtle in emotion, and occasionally gruesome in humor, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures follows four medical students from widely different backgrounds as their stories intertwine, as their illusions shatter, and as the meanings of many lives expand around them. The good news is that doctors are human beings. The bad news is that doctors are human beings. The other good news is that this book marks a stunning debut.

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Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
gwendolyndawson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A collection of short stories with overlapping characters. The stories trace the lives of four medical students that become doctors. Lam, a doctor himself, incudes plenty of realistic medical detail, and the characters are complex and interesting. I think I would have preferred this as a novel. As a short story collection, the effect is like a strobe light on an intricate dyarama. Certain vignettes are revealed in the bright light during a particular period of time, but then darkness falls again, and the interconnectivity of the whole can never be fully felt or understood.
warda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Short stories about four medical students whose lives intertwine as they make their way through each stage of training. Heroic and heartbreaking, but ultimately left me feeling vaguely disappointed. 3.5/5.
porchsitter55 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What an outstanding book! I absolutely loved this multi-faceted story about four medical students, following them from their first years in medical school, then as they moved on to their internships, and finally as full-fledged doctors.Each character's personality and growth as doctors, and as people, were smoothly crafted by the author. Also woven into the book were small snippets of experiences of each of these characters throughout their journey as doctors; each one riveting and fascinating.This author finely intertwined the lives of each character with the other, and in doing so, told a story about individuality, the pursuit of excellence, the desire to make a difference in the world, and the fragility and ultimate mortality of human life.
ZaraAlexis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book is an easy, engaging read (it took me a few days). I didn't realize the chapters were meant to be interrelated short stories until much further down the work. It's an excellent "insider view" from a doctor's perspective, the dilemmas of those in the medical profession: the body politic of the health system, the de-sensitized conditioning necessary to meet high volume and demand, the inevitability of sickness and death, and the tension between remaining professional, yet compassionate, while retaining a sense of one's own boundaries and needs. It speaks of the undeniable need to address more than the physiological, but also the breadth and scope of the fragility of the human condition---be it physical or otherwise---for doctors and patients.
miyurose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought this was really interesting. It¿s more a collection of short stories than a novel, and each story focuses on a different member of the core group of doctors. Despite being in medical school together, they don¿t always travel in the same circles. But, practicing in the same city, their paths cross from time to time, often in very interesting ways. There¿s love and death, success and failure.I listened to the book on audio, and was amused by the production. The narrator portrayed each character with their expected accent, and it walked the line between useful and overdone. I¿m still not quite sure what to think of it. I almost felt like I should be offended on someone else¿s behalf. Despite that, I enjoyed the listen.
vancouverdeb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A shallow ,disappointing book. Several short stories intertwine to create the book. There was really no depth to this story.
Cecilturtle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a fascinating and compelling series of short stories featuring four doctors. Their lives interweave throughout while each story focusses on a strong emotionally-charged event. The language is absolutely beautiful, creative metaphors mingled with medical jargon. From medical school to emergency evacuation, alcoholism, infectious diseases, birthgiving and more, the reader never gets bored. Fabulous!
jaclynl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderful collection of inter-connected short stories. I was hooked from the first 5 pages. This book tells the story of several characters on their journey from med-school hopefuls to practicing doctors. I only wish there were more stories as I was so invested in each of the characters I was disappointed I did not get to learn more about them.
Deesirings on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a great collection. I read once that short story collections can be hard to get through because the reader has to re-commit to something new with each successive story (unlike a novel, where as a reader, you commit only once). With this collection, I felt like there were enough interconnections that either no new commitment was required with each new story, or else, the commitment was just so easy to make because each story was as readeable as the last. The stories are told from the perspectives of a variety of narrators, primarily doctors but sometimes patients as well. Many of the characters recur from story to story but rarely (if at all) does the same character get to tell more than one story.In a sense, calling this a collection of short stories, I think, does it a disservice. It's almost a novel, told from various perspectives. But it isn't that either. It's hard to peg but it works really well.
aadyer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Worth looking at. The intial few stories were not up to much, but they got a lot better & for me were very nostalgic, but are very accessible to the non medic. Recommended
judelbug on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a terrific read by a Canadian author, who is also an Emergency physician working in Toronto. I found the main characters, their intertwining relationships and their patients to be interesting, but the book ended before I really felt I knew any of them... too short! I wanted more.
Nickelini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a group of loosely intertwined short stories involving four young Toronto doctors. Sometimes the drama concerns the doctors themselves, other times it concerns their patients. If you like the TV show ER, you'll love Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures.
piefuchs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I bought this book on a recent trip to Canada because it had one the Giller. I was diappointed. Though I typically love the format - a group of short stories that all centred on the same group of characters, I was less than impressed. When the author, who is a medical doctor by training, is writing about purely medical matters, (the story entitled Winston is a highlight) the book is good. When he is dealing with personal issues, he is sophmoric.
Niecierpek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It¿s a collection of loosely connected short stories with the same protagonists: four medical students who then become young doctors in the Ontario health system, most of them working in the ER. Each story has something to offer, and collectively they reflect really well various pressures put on doctors and medical students alike.I liked the third, autobiographical, story best. It had nothing to do with being a doctor in the ER; it was about Lam¿s grandfather. The style felt clumsy from time to time, but some stories, like the one on SARS, were very well written. Did it deserve the Giller? Not sure.
tripleblessings on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Giller prize winner for 2006 (Canadian literature prize.)A fascinating group of connected short stories following 4 doctors as they progress from med school to their various practices. Intense stories about dissecting cadavers, emergency resuscitations, the birth of a baby, night shift in the Emergency department, the SARS crisis in Toronto and more. While the scenarios are rather predictable, the point of view is sometimes a surprise, and there is good tension and suspense. The characters struggle with personal relationships, and moral dilemmas, human weaknesses and fears. Recurrent themes such as heartbeats, heart failure and affairs of the heart give the book more depth than the popular medical TV dramas. Definitely recommended.
LDVoorberg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A refreshingly different read! I like the realistic portrayal of life and of people. There was no overt commentary or criticism, just a perceptive narrative about regular people. Sometimes I wished there was more continuity between the stories, because I wanted to find out more about some of the stories, but I also liked this approach as well.Recommended Reading.
imperfectmanx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a Giller Prize winner. Frankly, I don't get it. Why did this book win a prize. It's uhm - a little bland.Maybe it's because I was expecting a novel, and this turned out to be short stories. The fact that each story revolved around at least one of the four main characters made it a little more bearable, but really, the stories were pretty stand-alone. Sure, you get a glimpse of what happens to each character eventually, but still... The stories revolve around medicine and doctors, and is not as gripping as Grey's Anatomy. While the characters weren't remarkable, it didn't make it better that I actually disliked one of the characters - the female doctor.The stories revolving around the human angle of teenage love and such - very uninspiring. My favourite story was he one on the SARS epidemic. That seemed real - and painted a picture of what Toronto must have been back then. And the one with the pregnancy was also a pretty good portrayal of the event. Apart from that, the rest of the stories seem mediocre.It didn't help that the medical terms sprinkled were unintelligible, yet didn't seem to be very interesting in their context. There is a glossary at the end of the book, but I discovered it too late, and even then wasn't vested enough in the book to actually read it.If you have to read this book, borrow it from the library. Don't waste your money on it
astrida22 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My son actually worked with Dr. Vincent Lam when he won the Giller prize for this book!Great interwoven stories about med students.
Linnet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting book -- although it's a collection of short stories, the stories are linked, and flow into one another. It's an engrossing read, covering med. school, emergency room medicine, as well as the SARS crisis in Toronto, all made more interesting because it's from the point of view of someone who actually lived it. Although I enjoyed the book, I'm not sure that it fully lives up to all the Giller prize hype.
MsAnthony More than 1 year ago
Great writing but disappointing ending. Captivating beginning, suspenseful middle, and weak ending for such a great beginning and middle. The stories hardly relate so you're reading several different stories in one book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got this at the library on a whim. The reader is awesome, does so many accents so well. The title threw me off, it's not about that. There are a series of short stories andout medical students. I'm listening to it twice in a row, it's that good. I listen to a ton of books on cd and this is my favorite. I will look for more books read by Christopher Lane, he is awesome!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago