Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures

This blog post is a mess but I’m going to post it anyway

I’m a newer member of my book club, and my first time hosting took place this week. I must admit that I was worrying just a little when I selected my book. Would I be judged by my book? What if my whole book club hated it? Do other people stress about their book choices? What will I make for the main course and does the food need to match the book? And why oh why do I stress about everything? Man, I hate myself. But I digress.

I ended up choosing the book Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam, which I had read soon after it won the 2006 Giller Prize. I chose this book for a few reasons, one of which is that I just admire the author so much, but also because I was at the University of Ottawa in the science program at the same time as Vincent (no, not in medical school, I am not a physician, but in the same undergrad program as him). I remember him just a little bit, but unfortunately I really can’t say that I knew him.

The book begins with students writing a molecular biology final exam in the gym at the University of Ottawa. This was based on the author’s own personal experience, and I was probably in that same gym at the same time as him, writing that same exam. That was pretty cool for me because there are not a lot of novels that incorporate science exam writing in the Ottawa area, if you can believe it. Huh.

After the University of Ottawa, Vincent Lam went on to medical school and is now an emergency room physician in Toronto. Oh, and he just happened to write a Giller Prize winning novel on the side. Yes, I am totally and completely jealous.

In preparing for my book club meeting, I went to Vincent Lam’s website at And I thought, why not drop Vincent a line and tell him how much I admire him and see if he has anything that our book club could discuss. Vincent kindly wrote back the very next day, and even though I could tell from his message that he didn’t remember me, he was very nice. He sent me this:

Well, I will leave you with a quote from William Osler, a great Canadian physician, which your club can mull over, even debate as yays and nays!

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.”

Now I really wish I could report back to you some of the great insight that people had on this quote and on the book in general, but I was just so darn busy serving my Faux Pho and making sure everyone had wine and a place to sit, that I was having a hard time concentrating on the discussion. The general consensus of the group was that it was a great read and very well written. By easy I don’t mean fluffy or not serious in any way – the writing is thoughtful, clear, and flowing. The stories move along.

The quote that Vincent sent me seemed to reflect some of the different patients in the book and how they are treated by the main character physicians. I won’t say more as this post was not meant to be a book review, and also because I really wouldn’t be able to do justice to the comments that people made. I shall take better notes the next time. Charming book club members, if you are reading, please feel free to help me out.

Now this book is being turned into a new television series on HBO which leads to the only major criticism of the book – the new copies that are in stores have an Oprah-like sticker on them saying “As Seen on HBO” and it looks tacky. Apparently at least one episode of the new show has already aired, but even though we have far too many cable channels, we don’t get that particular one. I’m hoping that I can find it online because I think it will be worth a watch.

About Finola

I am an Ottawa area Mom, writer-want-to-be and coffee legend in the making.
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5 Responses to Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures

  1. Hi Finola – For our book club, we found the same thing … that when it's your book AND you are hosting, you can't focus on book. So we changed up the format to never hosting when it is your book choice, that way you can help the convos etc. Maybe try that for next book club season? I also really enjoyed Lam's book. But so damn lazy to know how much he has accomplished!

  2. finola says:

    Julie – That's a really great idea! Thanks for the suggestion 🙂

  3. Laura says:

    Wow, your book clubs sound fancy with dinner and wine. I used to belong to one and the host (who picked the book) served something sweet, like cake and fruit and a cup of tea or coffee. It was easy and fun, but Pho dinner sounds waaaay better. Thanks for the recipe too, it sounds yummy.

  4. A Crafty Mom says:

    I just started a book club (found my members through Twitter, if you can believe that!) and I was terribly nervous about the book I picked. Worried if people would like it, if they would judge me, etc. We'll see how it goes – our first meeting is next week.

    I'm dying to read Vincent Lam's book. My SIL is good friends with him – they went to high school together and stayed in touch all through university. How neat that you went to university with him too – and sent him a message! I think that's awesome. I love to do a little author stalking when I can 🙂

  5. Finola says:

    Laura – I'm usually a set the bar low kind of person, so I think I would prefer just gathering up a few desserts and making coffee. But I'm the new person, so decided to go all in. I have to confess Hubby helped a TON!

    A Crafty Mom – I would love to know what book you chose. I won't judge, that is guaranteed!. Cool about your SIL! I haven't had the nerve to send Vincent Lam the link to this post. Might be taking the stalking a little too far 🙂

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