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on 29 July 2009
This is the first time I've written a review of a book or anything else I've bought in fact. But I saw this had no reviews here on Amazon and this book surely deserves one. I'll try my best...

James Maskalyk is an emergency medicine doctor from Canada who embarks upon a mission with MSF to Abyei, Sudan, in the hightened-conflict area between North and South. He worked as Abyei's main doctor in the hospital ran by MSF. His blog was typed during his time in Abyei and serves as a loosely-constructed mold to inter-twine with, and wrap around, his detailed and frank observations, conservations and experiences. Not to say this book is a rambling jumble of accounts - far from it in my view. Dr. James, as he's known in Abyei, manages to pull off something remarkable, yet something I suspect he intended when he decided to write the book and blog - it's a gripping personal account, both of his own journey but also of the people that he meets, however briefly, during his time there. It's uncompromisingly honest and I always felt he was recording events as he witnessed them, but not without a sense of personality, of which there is plenty. He conveys the struggle, politics, hardship, sadness and, occasionally, happiness along with everything else in a manner which is entirely sincere and manages to get under your skin and stay there.

Perhaps some would become tired by the sometimes staccato sentences, brevity of some personal musings or seemingly-random interjections, but I found them to be entirely accessible and they strengthened the communication of what he was trying to convey. He has managed to distill his thoughts and experiences in an effective fashion - it felt like I could experience a part of Abyei and it's story without having set foot in Africa and, judging by the last few chapters, that was one of the major aims of the blog and book. It never felt preachy, and nor did I come away feeling connected but unsympathetic. There is power in the words that have been written in this book, and I think it's because of what James says himself in the book- it's not that we don't care, but our ability to act is blunted by our distance from where the action is required. If only we could be there ourselves... and this is what James Maskalyk manages to portray through his book and blog so effectively and in such a human way. It inspires, and hopefully culminates in, action.

I would recommend this book to anyone, but perhaps even more so to people who are interested in the work done by NGOs, the application of medicine in countries or situations far removed from the familiar, or those looking to embark upon similar work.

I look forward to future work by the author.
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on 23 March 2011
Maskalyk's book is an account of six months working as a doctor for Médecins Sans Frontieres, from the bureaucratic limbo-like state before the actual mission and including the time immmediately after his return home and his, presumably temporary, feelings of dissociation from society.

The account describes well the daily life of Maskalyk's MSF group, for good and bad. Maskalyk describes the workings of the local hospital, coping with epidemics and emergencies, and describes as well the daily annoyances of constant heat and dust. In particular, he also accounts his own ups and downs, as he is visibly moved (mostly to a state of constant tiredness and slight depression) by his surroundings.

Curiously, even though this is the shortest part of the book, I actually found his short description of his inner state after returning home amongst the most interesting parts of the book, because it describes the changed state of mind that his six-month journey induced.

The book gives both an inside account of life as a doctor for MSF, as well as a good general account of the workings of MSF on a local level. Although I didn't care much for the slightly distracting blog entries that Maskalyk sprays the book with, it does add some atmosphere, and in general, the book is very well written.
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on 3 June 2015
A really interesting, gripping book that you will want to read from start to finish. Not the easiest read, in terms of the fact it is quite heavy-going and difficult subject, but a fascinating glimpse into life in another society.
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on 2 July 2011
Written initially as a blog may have benefitted from further editing to create a novel format. Well written, the author gives a very good account of Abyei, the frustrations and joy of working in a harsh environment.
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on 20 January 2010
A great insight on the challenges of providing support in the under-developed world. It does not cover up any of the personal, emotional, practical and political challenges, and was a good read because of that.
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on 15 March 2014
Aid workers have been traveling off to far flung places to save the world forever. But this story is wonderfully fresh and entertaining.

Well done James.
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on 7 May 2014
This is the 6 month story of a conscientous but naieve young surgeon who joined Medecines Sans Frontiers and was posted to Abyei on the Sudan/South Sudan border.
The book which started as a blog was converted to a book in 2007 when he returned to Canada.
He covers what would be expected in such an area including malaria,a measles epidemic,advanced diseases of women and children many of whom died plus the wounds and injuries associated with warfare.
Very well written with a few very poor quality pictures.
It is clear the author was psychologically ill equiped or prepared for what he found and fell into the trap of becoming emotionally assosiated with his patients which badly affected him.He must learn the basic medical principle in jobs such as these - no emotional attachments to patients and do not take on other assignments until he can deal with this element.
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on 10 May 2014
I was so disappointed in this book; having previously read similar books by other authors (Bandage for a Broken Leg, a Dressing Station), I thought I would enjoy this, especially in view of its reviews. Instead this book dragged rather and the blog excerpts did not encourage me at all to check it out as it just did not feel very well written.
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