Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures
By Vincent Lam
Group portrait of the medical profession.
Bloodletting, which won Canada's Giller Prize, strips away the romance from the medical profession as it follows four young Toronto physicians' training from med school to the ER. In 12 connected stories, Lam, a Toronto ER physician, reveals the contradictions and dilemmas that characterize their lives. Fitz develops a drinking problem to cope with stress; Ming, driven by her immigrant parents, treats her patients coldly and analytically; Chen marries Ming after her short-lived romance with Fitz; and Sri, an overly sensitive doctor, is diagnosed with cancer. Their stories culminate in the 2003 SARS virus, which puts an all-too-human face on their own fragile lives.
Weinstein Books. 362 pages. $23.95. ISBN: 1602860009
Cleveland Plain Dealer
"The book reads like inside information, as if Lam is telling us what other doctors wish he wouldn't. ... In the pages that follow, we see both art and science."
"There's a glossary of medical terms at the back of the book, but Lam is at his best when he explores more recondite territory: the private doubts and aspirations of his cast of four young, mainly inexperienced doctors. ... In this impressive first book, by all appearances, Lam's concern for his flawed characters and their difficult choices comes naturally." JOEL YANOFSKY
"[The book] lets us peek behind those swinging doors at the end of a hospital's echoing hallway; we overhear conversations, gaze at patient charts, let out our breath at the end of a failed resuscitation. Lam's writing is both minimalist and elegant, like a taut line of stitches perfectly placed." MOIRA MACDONALD
"While each chapter stands on its own, thus justifying the label 'short story,' collectively the characters and incidents intertwine with the comprehensiveness of a novel. ... Lam's prose is as specific and unsentimental as a medical chart, but it works." KATHY L. GREENBERG
"Lam opens a door into the world of successful, assimilated young Chinese-Canadian professionals and he does so with the authority of an insider. We have not heard much about people like Chen and Ming and their friend Sri, nor Ming's rejected non-Chinese lover Fitz in Canadian fiction before." JUDY STOFMAN
Globe and Mail [Toronto]
"The inward-looking world of fiction, too often a creative-writing class not quite brought to life, needs this kind of practitioner and not just for the energizing vocabulary he brings to the language of the heart: atrial electricity, crash cart, rhythm strip, mitral regurgitation. Lam has new stories to tell, and while TV series such as House and ER have prepared the way for the medical slice-of-life, the focus here is much more on the relentlessly analytical doctors themselves." JOHN ALLEMANG
National Post [Ontario]
"Occasionally some of the pieces feel more like writing exercises than stories. ... Nevertheless, 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." KEVIN CHONG
Vincent Lam joins the ranks of doctor-writers with his award-winning debut novel. Compared to the popular TV dramas Grey's Anatomy, House, and ER, Bloodletting (set to become a Canadian TV drama itself) offers an intriguing look at naive doctors' lives and aspirations while showcasing the humanity and daily dilemmas they face. In both humorous and worst-case scenarios, Lam depicts how students plot their way into med school, develop strange ties to cadavers, break terrible news to patients' families, second-guess all their actions, collaborate against their consciences, and deal with life-threatening illnesses of their own. Although a few critics cited flat dialogue, Bloodletting offers a compelling and insightful view of the medical profession.
First Among Sequels
A Thursday Next Novel
By Jasper Fforde
Murderous mayhem reigns in BookWorld.
First, Sherlock Holmes is killed. Next, Miss Marple. Then literary detective Thursday Next receives a death threat. A serial killer is on the loose in BookWorld! And that's just one of many problems Thursday faces. Now, she's mom to a slacker teenager who refuses to get out of bed. (Of course, he controls the fate of the world.) There's also a sinister corporation turning works of literature into reality book shows. Can Thursday stop Pride and Prejudice from turning into a trashy show called The Bennets? Can she catch a book killer? Can she make her son take a shower?
Viking. 384 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0670038717
"Arguably, what is most enjoyable about Jasper Fforde's work is not its silliness--though there is plenty of that. It is admiring the skill that keeps all those silly balls in the air. And the newest chapter in the Thursday Next saga does something as highly improbable as the life of its heroine: It continues to surprise and entertain."
"What captivates here is something that will appeal to any reader--and that's the feeling that there's something at stake in fiction, that characters created in books are every bit as real as the memory of a person. Of all the Thursday books, this one is by far the most busily plotted, but Fforde's greatest gift is on display."
"The pleasure in reading Fforde is immersing yourself into a satiric, literary world rich in characters, setting and language from your favorite books, made over in a wacky, campy way."
"It all sounds massively confusing, but the magic of Fforde's writing is that it actually isn't. With skill and a grin, he welcomes the reader into the crazed, madcap world that is Thursday's, and suddenly it becomes easy, even irresistible, to accept time-travel paradoxes and jumps into and out of fiction."
"Thursday Next: First Among Sequels is so jampacked with goofy jokes and shaggy plot lines that some readers may tire before the end. That would be a shame, since they'd miss the book's exciting conclusion on the dangerous high seas of piratical swashbuckling."
Set in a world where books are more fun than television, more serious than the CIA, and more important than proper diet and exercise, the Thursday Next novels continue to grow in popularity--which is a good sign. In the fifth novel of the series (after Something Rotten, EXCELLENT Nov/Dec 2004), Jasper Fforde again shows off his delicious British wit (and occasionally heavy-handed use of puns) in another zany romp. If you're already a fan, First Among Sequels is sure to thrill. If you're new to the series, you might as well dive right in. Either way, you'll soon have a new appreciation of Henry Longfellow.
By Nancy Horan
Biography of independence.
When Mamah Borthwick Cheney's husband commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design the couple's home in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1903, Mamah and Frank began a scandalous, clandestine affair that rocked American society. Both married and with children, they abandoned their families in 1909 to live in Germany, where Mamah, a burgeoning women's rights advocate, translated Swedish feminist Ellen Key's books and profoundly affected her lover's architecture. When they returned from Europe and settled in Wisconsin, where Frank was building Taliesin, they found themselves at odds with society, and their love affair, begun so idealistically, ended in tragedy.
Ballantine. 362 pages. $23.95. ISBN: 0345494997
"Many readers will be drawn to the premise of Loving Frank because of the title character's fame and his reputation as a man who would 'rather be honestly arrogant than hypocritically humble.' ... Yet if Frank Lloyd Wright is the reason people will pick up this book, Mamah Borthwick is the reason they will keep reading it."
Christian Science Monitor
"Horan isn't interested in a 'true love conquers all' kind of tale, but instead an exploration of the human costs of moving outside society's rules--especially for an intelligent woman living at a time when women were classed, for legal purposes, with the insane. ... And she doesn't skim over Cheney's (and especially Wright's) flaws."
New York Times
"If Loving Frank begins dutifully, it takes on the impact of truly artful fiction. ... In the end it shows how Mamah and Frank faced dangers more deep-seated than a murderous accident of fate."
"The real fun here, however, comes from understanding how Horan pieced it all together. ... All in all, an amazing achievement and a rewarding read on many levels."
"Horan doesn't seem unduly constrained by the parameters of hard fact, and for long stretches her novel is engaging and exciting. ... The novel belongs to the feminist genre not only in its depiction of a woman's conflicting desires for love and motherhood and a central role in society, but also through its sophisticated--and welcome--focus on the topic of feminism itself."
"One of Horan's achievements is how effectively she intertwines Mamah's evolution with the era's social change. Her style, unfortunately, isn't as elegant as her subjects."
Frank Lloyd Wright never once mentioned Mamah Cheney in his letters or autobiography; still, Nancy Horan managed to extrapolate the love affair from newspaper accounts and Mamah's letters to Ellen Key. If Loving Frank didn't hew so closely to the facts, it would read almost like...