The Blood of Strangers: True Stories from the Emergency Room Paperback – 2 Jan 2002
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Frank Huyler may be competent as a physician, but he excels as a writer. These 28 medical tales, subtitled "True Stories from the Emergency Room", have been lightly sprinkled with a fictive coating and honed to a skeletal starkness that renders them as fleeting as cinematic takes. Chronologically following his early career from medical student to 32-year-old hospital doctor in Albuquerque, New Mexico, his evocation of a frequently harsh learning curve exposes space and stillness even in the claustrophobic intensity of ER. As an intern, he stitches a man's gashed face, and returns the next to day to admire his handiwork, only to realise, after a while, that it's now the face of a corpse. He saves another man's life by plunging a needle in his chest to relieve air pressure, then returns later, "savoring him, taking something for myself".
Such conventional heroic acts are balanced, if not exceeded, by mistakes. He misses a broken neck, and nearly kills a man by giving him antibiotics to which he's allergic, but he learns the value of instinct. The distance between the flesh and the person is constantly borne out: people he knows intimately, inside out literally, regain consciousness only to meet his attentions with blank indifference. It's enough to test the most durable soul, and it does. A fellow student murders his partner, and a neurosurgeon maintains a serious drug habit, practises voodoo and sleeps wantonly with bodies denuded of emotion. Blue is the colour, of their moods and the flesh and innards that splatter their working day. Huyler himself, in one of the bleakest moments, passes on the possibility of a relationship with a colleague, feeling only "this vacancy, this spending cold".
Predictably, critics have cited Raymond Carver and Chekhov in their praise. Huyler's writing stands the comparison. In his heady, sleep-deprived intensity, he seeks out poetic truths rather than clinical ones, reaching them through the visceral, and exposing them to our glance. The Blood of Strangers represents a brilliant, precocious debut, best taken whole, though probably not before meals. --David Vincent --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
‘Set to become a classic.’
‘A breathtakingly brilliant portrait, sketched so elegantly that if it were done in pencil it would only consist of a few sharp lines.’
‘One of the best writers to emerge since the death of Raymond Carver. He moves medicine out of the realm of science and into the domain of humanity.’
• ‘Dr Huyler’s short, intense book treats of only the most important matters: life and death. This is a young writer with a big mind – and an even bigger heart.’
• ‘If Raymond Carver had been a doctor, these are the stories he would have written. There are no untarnished heroes here. This is the world as it is: lovely and disturbing all at once.’
Atul Gawande, New Yorker
Top Customer Reviews
This is not a book with many happy endings. Each story is complete in iteself and covers only a few pages. It isn't 'Casualty' in book form - it is far darker and yet more human than a television drama. If you want everyone to be brought back from the dead at the last minute this is not the book for you.
It is profound and moving with flashes of joy like colours in shot silk and well worth the short time it takes to read. You will not have read anything like it.
Overall, this is a collection of stories that brings to life not only the fragile, fleeting nature of human life but also the intimate and almost sacred bond between ER physician and the patient.Read more ›
Yes, there were interesting stories, such as 'A Good Scar' where Huyler the intern stitches a man's face only to find him dead the next day and 'Liar' with an interesting twist in the case of a woman who can't speak.
Despite these positives I found that with some of the stories I wanted to know more and would have benefitted from more detail (with some stories being only 2 pages long). I also found that as there were so many stories (28) some of them were not as interesting and the book would have benefitted from some editing in this sense.
Although I have been a little more harsh than other reviews I still enjoyed the book and read it quickly as it was very easy to read. There are many interesting characters and stories, I just would have liked a little more insight, although I guess a busy doctor only gets such a small snapshot of each patient.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Cover 4/5 Leads one into what the book is about.
Just purchased this as a used hardback book for £1.40. With my reading so far the book looks to be amazingly good value. Read more
Short book written by an attending doctor in the ER. Snap shots of the things he witnesses, poignant, touching and very very real.Published on 1 Jun. 2014 by F Keegan
This slim volume makes every word on every page count. Huyler's accounts of his early years as an attending surgeon, the patients he encounters and the often astonishingly real,... Read morePublished on 19 July 2010 by Jeff Markham
A poetic look at medicine,which is frightening and moving in places. Best thing written by a doctor I've read in recent years. Read morePublished on 26 Dec. 2009 by books
This book is written as a collection of short stories from the pen of an Emergency Room doctor. It is another one of those books I found I could not put down. Read morePublished on 15 July 2009 by Tox
I would reccomend that you read this book, it is not what I expected but i enjoyed it, and i whish more books flowed like this. Read morePublished on 18 Jun. 2009 by Romreader
The Blood of Strangers is a collection of true stories (albiet with a liberal sprinkle of fiction) from the emergency ward, as seen by the author, Anthony Huyler. Read morePublished on 27 May 2009 by Paul B
This is not a book for the faint-hearted.
The author describes case after case, eash different, each with a human angle, some tragic, others miraculous, all fascinating... Read more
Don't expect happy endings or heart-warming stories from the hospital wards here - this is life in full colour with all its frayed, disturbing edges. Read morePublished on 23 April 2009 by R. WEST-SOLEY
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