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The Blood of Strangers: True Stories from the Emergency Room Paperback – 2 Jan 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (2 Jan. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841155497
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841155494
  • Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 1.5 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 815,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

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.

Review

‘Unforgettable.’
Sunday Times

‘Set to become a classic.’
Independent

‘A breathtakingly brilliant portrait, sketched so elegantly that if it were done in pencil it would only consist of a few sharp lines.’
The Times

‘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.’
Red

• ‘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.’
Paul Auster

• ‘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

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By Damaskcat HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 23 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've read a few books by doctors and paramedics about their frontline duties and I expected this to be similar. It isn't. The writing is spare and stark. The people are unforgettable. The girl who bleeds as fast as blood is transfused into her, though no one knows why; the man who keeps coming back about chest pains but keeps discharging himself as soon as the doctors get close to finding out what's wrong with him; the car crashes, the gunshot wounds, the broken neck which he does not identify and the child whose life he saves.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Without doubt the best medical book I’ve read. Huyler’s collection of heart felt tails give an honest incite into emergency medicine. His accounts truly humanise medics and the emotions they feel. Huyler reflects honestly on his anger and irritations of trying patients and situations, however, unlike “House of God” he does not over accentuate this. This is a man who genuinely cares for the people he treats. The balance is perfect: occasionally very funny, often dramatic and always real!
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Format: Hardcover
This book tells of actual events from various phases of a young American doctor's training. From medical school to the ER, he meets all kinds of situations and people-- patients, fellow students, nurses, and doctors. This is not the ER on TV- full of frenzy and fakery. Instead you look behind the mask of "official" medicine into people with all their fears, hopes and oddities. There's a doctor on drugs, a lonely nurse, a neurotic surgeon. The patients include a young man dying of AIDS, a little girl almost going into a coma, a tough old man who ignores his heart attacks, even a jailed killer who is brought to the hospital by the police. Lots of different and intriguing characters! The emotions aren't sentimental, and the writing is clear and forceful. The book is a real page-turner, because you get to care about how each case will turn out. Also you empathize with the doctor/author and appreciate his honesty. Because the book is short and consists of separate "stories", it's an easy yet compelling read. Highest recommendation!
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By Lilly Penhaligon TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 Mar. 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is one of those books that people are either going to love or hate. I imagine that the people who hate it will be the ones that argue that there is no central storyline/plot. They'd be right. THe only thread holding the thing together is the fact that all the stories are based on real life experiences of the author. Amazingly, even though it's based on personal experiences in ER, you learn absolutely next to nothing about hte author, Frank Huyler, himself apart from the fact that he has an incredible way of observing things other people may not and for putting them into words. I loved this book - being interested in medicine and hoping to follow an allied medical book, I was fascinated by the intimate look at human life that doctors get and may not alway appreciate. This is essentially a collection of experiences not even linked together coherently - more of a sort of diary of observations with each chapter containing it's own account of a particular patient. Some of them have no conclusion even like the two teenagers brought in with head injuries - one dies on arrival and the other....well, we only get to know what the author did and he obviously didn't stay to the end although the implications are that the kid didn't make it. But what's genious about this book is that even though that particular story had no conclusion, it's the interaction between the dead boy's parents and the dying friend that is so touching and so poignant.
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.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As I have an interest in medical dramas (House, Grey's Anatomy etc.) and am also an avid reader of non-fiction and biographical books (Torey Hayden, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) I thought this book would be well worth a read. However I feel slightly disappointed after reading it as I didn't find it quite as good as other reviewers.

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.
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