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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures

Reviewed: August 30, 2007
By: Vincent Lam / read by Michael Scholar, Jr. & William Johnston
Publisher: BTC Audio Books
2 1/2 hours on 2 CDs, $24.95

Hospital stories have been a staple of the fiction racks since before Doctor Kildare, but most of them don’t possess the ring of authenticity that Dr. Vincent Lam brings to the the genre. Indeed, this collection of character linked short stories doesn't’ exactly fit within the usual framework. These stories are not like an episode of “House” or “ER”.

This BTC audio production doesn’t give the entire contents of this Giller Prize winning collection, but there’s enough here to give you a taste for more.

“Take all of Murphy” explores the lives of Fitz, Chen and Ming, a seemingly mismatched trio of students who have been assigned to dissect a corpse as part of their training, and too prepare them for an examination. Among the problems they face do they cut right through a tattoo in the approved medical text manner or cut around it out of respect for the disceased, whom they have named Murphy?

In “A Long Migration we learn how Chen travelled to Brisbane to offer palliative care to his dying grandfather, but mostly we learn about Percival Chen’s eccentric life in China, Viet Nam and Australia.

“Contact Tracing” brings us back to Toronto, and follows a couple of doctors and a nurse through the height of the SARS crisis, wth two character in the isolation ward, stricken wth the virus, and a single mother terrified that she might have contracted the disease.

Finally, “Available Light (called “Before Light” in the print edition) deals with a doctor dragged down by weariness, and the behavioral quirks this might produce after a bad day’s sleep leads into a long night in the emergency room.

This is fascinating material, and I recommend it in either print or audio form.

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