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The House of God [NOOK Book]

Overview

More information to be announced soon on this forthcoming title from Penguin USA

They've come from the top of their med school class to begin the most harrowing year of their lives. Six eager interns, fashioning themselves as saviors in the world of the healing arts, are about to serve a year in the time-honored tradition of the hospital internship. Their year will be grueling--no sleep, stress, and insanity, tempered with love, ...

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The House of God

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Overview

More information to be announced soon on this forthcoming title from Penguin USA

They've come from the top of their med school class to begin the most harrowing year of their lives. Six eager interns, fashioning themselves as saviors in the world of the healing arts, are about to serve a year in the time-honored tradition of the hospital internship. Their year will be grueling--no sleep, stress, and insanity, tempered with love, humor and priceless rewards. Reprint.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fascinating." —-The Wall Street Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101460887
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 9/7/2010
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 39,648
  • File size: 574 KB

Meet the Author


Samuel Shem is the pen name of Stephen Bergman, a doctor, novelist, playwright, and activist whose books include Mount Misery, The Spirit of the Place, and Fine.

Sean Runnette, a multiple AudioFile Earphones Award winner, has produced several Audie Award–winning audiobooks. He is a member of the American Repertory Theater company, and his television and film appearances include Two If by Sea, Copland, Sex and the City, Law & Order, and Third Watch.

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Read an Excerpt

1

Except for her sunglasses, Berry is naked. Even now, on vacation in France with my internship year barely warm in its grave, I can't see her bodily imperfections. I love her breasts, the way they change when she lies flat, on her stomach, on her back, and then when she stands, and walks. And dances. Oh, how I love her breasts when she dances. Cooper's ligaments suspend the breasts. Cooper's Droopers, if they stretch. And her pubis, symphasis pubis, the bone under the skin being the real force shaping her Mound of Venus. She has sparse black hair. In the sun, she sweats, the glisten making her tan more erotic. In spite of my medical eyes, in spite of having just spent a year among diseased bodies, it is all I can do to sit calmly and record. The day feels smooth, warm, pebbled with the nostalgia of a sigh. It is so still that a match flame stands upright, invisible in the clear hot air. The green of the grass, the lime-white walls of our rented farm-house, the orange stucco roof edging the August blue sky--it is all too perfect for this world. There is no need to think. There is time for all things. There is no result, there is only process. Berry is trying to teach me to love as once I did love, before the deadening by the year.

I struggle to rest and cannot. Like a missile my mind homes to my hospital, the House of God, and I think of how I and the other interns handled sex. Without love, amidst the gomers and the old ones dying and the dying young, we had savaged the women of the House. From the most tender nursing-school novitiate through the hard-eyed head nurses of the Emergency Room, and even, in pidgin Spanish, to the bangled and whistling Hispanic ones in Housekeeping and Maintenance--we had savaged them for our needs. I think back to the Runt, who had moved from two-dimensional magazine sex into a spine-tingling sexual adventure with a voracious nurse named Angel--Angel, who never ever did, the whole long year, to anyone's knowledge, string together a complete sentence made of real words. And I know now that the sex in the House of God had been sad and sick and cynical and sick, for like all our doings in the House, it had been done without love, for all of us had become deaf to the murmurs of love.

"Come back, Roy. Don't drift off there, now."

Berry. Finishing our lunch, we are almost to the hearts of our artichokes. They grow to enormous size in this part of France. I had trimmed and boiled the artichokes, and Berry had made the vinaigrette. The food here is exquisite. Often we eat in the sun-dappled garden of our restaurant, under the lattice of branches. The starched white linen, delicate crystal, and fresh red rose in the silver vase are almost too perfect for this life. In the corner, our waiter attends, napkin over his arm. His hand trembles. He suffers from a senile tremor, the tremor of a gomer, of all the gomers of the year. As I come to the last leaves of the artichoke, their purple surpassing their edible green, and throw them toward the garbage heap for the farmer's chickens and glass-eyed gomer of a dog, I think about a gomer eating an artichoke. Impossible, unless it were pureed and squirted down the feeding tube. I remove the thistly hairs, green abundant, covering the mound of choke, and come to the heart, and I think back to eating in the House of God, and to the one best at eating, best at medicine, my resident, the Fat Man. The Fat Man shoveling onions and Hebrew National hot dogs and raspberry ice cream into his mouth all at once at the ten-o'clock supper. The Fat Man, with his LAWS OF THE HOUSE and his approach to medicine that at first I thought was sick but that gradually I learned to be the way it was. I see us--hot, sweaty, Iwo Jima-heroic--hovered over a gomer:

"They're hurting us," the Fat Man would say.

"They've got me on my knees," I'd reply.

"I'd commit suicide, but I don't want to make the bastards happy."

And we'd put our arms around each other and cry. My fat genius, always with me when I needed him, but where is he as I need him now? In Hollywood, in Gastroenterology, in bowel runs--as he always put it--"through the colons of the stars." I know now that it was his zany laughter and his caring, and that of the two policemen of the Emergency Room--the two policemen, my Saviors, who seemed to know everything and who almost seemed to know it in advance--that had gotten me through the year. And despite the Fat Man and the policemen, what had happened in the House of God had been fierce, and I had been hurt, bad. For before the House of God, I had loved old people. Now they were no longer old people, they were gomers, and I did not, I could not love them anymore. I struggle to rest, and cannot, and I struggle to love, and I cannot for I'm all bleached out, like a man's shirt washed too many times.

"Since you drift off there so much, maybe you'd rather be back there after all," says Berry sarcastically.

"Love, it's been a bad year."

I sip my wine. I've been drunk much of the time we've been here. I've been drunk in the cafes on market day as the clamor ebbs in the market and flows in the bars. I've been drunk while swimming in our river, at noon the temperature of water, air, and body all the same, so that I can't tell where body ends and water begins and it's a melding of the universe, with the river curling round our bodies, cool and warm rushes intermingling in lost patterns, filling all times and all depths. I swim against the current, looking upstream where the winding riverpath rests in a cradle of willow, rushes, poplar, shadow, and that great master of shadow, the sun. Drunk, I lie in the sun on the towel, watching with blossoming arousal the erotic ballet of the Englishwomen changing into and out of swimsuits, glimpsing an edge of breast, a wisp of pubic hair, as so often I had glimpsed edges and wisps of nurses, as they changed into and out of their costumes before my eyes, in the House. Sometimes, drunk, I ruminate on the state of my liver, and think of all the cirrhotics I have watched turn yellow and die. They either bleed out, raving, coughing up and drowning in blood from ruptured esophageal veins, or, in coma, they slip away, slip blissfully away down the yellow-brick ammonia-scented road to oblivion. Sweating, I tingle, and Berry becomes more beautiful than ever. This wine makes me feel like I'm bathed in amnion, breathless, fed by the motherbloodflow in the umbilical vein, fetal, slippery and tumbling over and over in the warmth of the beating womb, warm amnion, warmnion. Alcohol helped in the House of God, and I think of my best friend, Chuck, the black intern from Memphis, who never was without a pint of Jack Daniel's in his black bag for those extra-bitter times when he was hurt extra bad by the gomers or the slurping House academics, like the Chief Resident or the Chief of Medicine himself, who were always looking at Chuck as illiterate and underprivileged when in fact he was literate and privileged and a better doc than anyone else in the whole place. And in my drunkenness I think that what happened to Chuck in the House was too sad, for he had been happy and funny and now he was sad and glum, broken by them and going around with the same half-angry, half-crushed look in his eyes that I'd noticed Nixon had had yesterday on our French TV, as he stood on the steps of the helicopter on the White House lawn after his resignation, giving a pathetically inappropriate V-for-defeat sign before the doors closed over him, the Filipinos rolled in the red carpet, and Jerry Ford, looking more flabbergasted then awed, put his arm around his wife and walked slowly back to the presidency. The gomers, these gomers . . .

"Damnit, everything makes you think of those gomers," says Berry.

"I hadn't realized that I'd been thinking out loud."

"You never realize it, but these days, you always do. Nixon, gomers, forget about the gomers. There aren't any gomers here."

I know she's wrong. One lazy and succulent day, I am walking by myself from the graveyard at the top of the village, down the catnapping winding road overlooking the chateau, the church, the prehistoric caves, the square, and far below, the river valley, the child's-toy poplars and Roman bridge indicating the road, and the creator of all this, the spawn of the glacier, our river. I have never taken this path before, this path along this ridge. I am beginning to relax, to know what I knew before: the peace, the rainbow of perfections of doing nothing. The country is so lush that the birds can't eat all the ripe blackberries. I stop and pick some. Juicy grit in my mouth. My sandals slap the asphalt. I watch the flowers compete in color and shape, enticing the rape by the bees. For the first time in more than a year I am at peace, and nothing in the whole world is effort, and all, for me, is natural, whole, and sound.

I turn a corner and see a large building, like an asylum or a hospital, with the word "Hospice" over the door. My skin prickles, the little hairs on the back of my neck rise, my teeth set on edge. And there, sure enough, I see them. They have been set out in the sun, in a little orchard. The white of their hair, scattered among the green of the orchard, makes them look like dandelions in a field, gossamers awaiting their final breeze. Gomers. I stare at them. I recognize the signs. I make diagnoses. As I walk past them, their eyes seem to follow me, as if somewhere in their dementia they are trying to wave, or say bonjour, or show some other vestige of humanness. But they neither wave nor say bonjour, nor show any other vestige. Healthy, tan, sweaty, drunk, full of blackberries, laughing inside and fearing the cruelty of that laughter, I feel grand. I always feel grand when I see a gomer. I love these gomers now.

"Well, there may be gomers in France, but you don't have to take care of them."

She goes back to her artichoke, and the vinaigrette accumulates on her chin. She doesn't wipe it off. She's not the type. She enjoys the oily feel of the oil, the vinegar sting. She enjoys her nakedness, her carelessness, her oiliness, her ease. I feel that she's getting excited. Now she looks at me again. Am I saying this out loud? No. As we watch each other, the vinaigrette drips from her chin to her breast. We watch. The vinaigrette explores, oozing slowly down the skinline, heading south toward the nipple. We speculate together, without words, whether it will make it, or if it will veer off, toward cleft or pit. I flip back into medicine, thinking of carcinoma of the axillary nodes. Mastectomy. Statistics crowd in. Berry smiles at me, unaware of my regression toward death. The vinaigrette stays on line, oozes onto the nipple, and hangs. We smile.

"Stop obsessing about the gomers and come lick it off."

"They can still hurt me."

"No, they can't. Come on."

As I put my lips to her nipple, feeling it rise, tasting the sting of the sauce, my fantasy is of a cardiac arrest. The room is crowded, and I am one of the last to arrive. On the bed is a young patient, intubated, being breathed by the respiratory tech. The resident is trying to put in a big intravenous line, and the medical student is running round and round the bed. Everyone in the room knows that the patient is going to die. Kneeling on the bed, giving closed-chest cardiac massage, is one of the intensive-care nurses, a redhead with great thighs and big tits, from Hawaii. Tits from Hawaii. It had been her patient, and she had been first to arrive at the arrest. I stand in the doorway and watch: her white skirt has ridden up her legs so that as she bends over the patient, she flaunts her ass. She wears flowered bikini panties. I can almost see the petals through the seams of the white stretch pantyhose. I think of Hawaii. Up and down, up and down her ass is moving up and down in the middle of all the blood and vomit and urine and crap and people. Waves of surf on volcanic beaches up and down up and down. Fantastic plush limousine of an ass. I go up to her and put my hand on it. She turns and sees who it is and smiles and says Oh hi Roy and keeps on pumping. I massage her ass as she moves up and down, around and around my hand goes. I whisper something raunchy in her ears. I take both hands and pull down her pantyhose, and then pull her panties down to her knees. She beats on the body. I take my hands, and slip one into her crotch and run the other down the inside of her thighs up and down and up and down in time to the chest compressions of the resuscitation. She takes her free hand and undoes the buttons of my white pants and grabs my erect penis. The tension is incredible. There are shouts for "adrenaline!" and "the defibrillator!"

Finally they're ready to put the paddles of the defibrillator on the patient's chest, to shock the dying heart. Someone shouts: "Everybody off the bed!" and the Hawaiian slides down onto my penis.

"Shock him!"

SSZZZZZZ.

They shock the patient. The body convulses up off the bed as the muscles contract from the 300 volts, but the cardiac monitor is flat line. The heart is dead. An intern, the Runt, enters the room. The patient is his patient. He seems upset. He looks like he's about to burst into tears. Then he sees the Hawaiian and me going at it, and his eyes show his surprise. I turn to him and say:

"Cheer up, Runt, it's impossible to be depressed with an erection."

The fantasy ends with the young patient dead and all of us consoling ourselves in sex on the blood-slippery floor, singing as we rocket toward orgasm:

"I wanna go back to my little grass shack in Kooala-kahoo Ha-WAAAAA--EEEEEEEE! . . ."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 63 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 63 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    This is a classic tale from the 1970's by Dr. Samuel Shem (pen n

    This is a classic tale from the 1970's by Dr. Samuel Shem (pen name). It's considered a Must Read for anyone considering medical school and being a doctor. As a physician myself, I often recommend this book to my pre med and medical students. It still resonates today, after introducing such controversial terms as "Gomer," short for Get Out of My Emergency Room. It's a fun, but dark read that depicts the hospital as a partial sexual madhouse. Overall I don't think real life is quite as dramatic as the fiction presented by Dr. Shem here, but it's still an absolute must read for anyone interested in being a doctor.
    The only knock on HOG is that it's now a bit outdated. Because of this, I also recommend my students read two more recent books, "In Stitches" by Dr. Anthony Youn and "Monday Mornings" by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Both are famous TV doctors, but Dr. Youn's book is a memoir while Dr. Gupta's book is fiction. "In Stitches" is funny and covers one doctor's harrowing four years in medical school. I loved this one. "Monday Mornings" is more serious, and covers attending doctors and M&M conferences. Both are new must-reads for pre meds and med students alike, in my opinion.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2012

    Absolute Must read

    OMG....this is my second purchase of this classic. I am so impressed with it from the perspective of practicing emergency physician who has literally seen it all in the past 41 years. It has prompted me to write my own memoirs.....still in process. The Jazz Doctor

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 17, 2009

    This book was amazing! I couldn't stop reading and laughing...

    As a young PACU nurse, heading off to finish my pre-med work and hopefully become a physician, I read this book after hearing one of our sugeons say "Don't they make anyone read "House of God" any more?" I really enjoyed the hilarious and on-point humor. Unlike a fellow reader I enjoyed the sexuality, which sorry but it has to be admitted, has played a roll in the medical profession since long before Greys Anatomy! I think anyone who works in or wants to work in medicine could benifit from reading this classic novel.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I pity Dr. Shem, and hope that his experiences after his residency were better. Perhaps he was not made to be a physician at all.

    "Yes, partly," I said. " I lived through this nightmare because you were with me." (Dr. Roy G. Basch - protagonist)
    "Yes, partly. And you're right: this internship has been like the stuff of dreams, like the overpowering nightmares of childhood: aggression, fear, of retaliation, and then the resolution, where you don't win, you (just) live." (Berry, his girlfriend and a clinical psychologist)

    House of God, Dell publishing, May 1988 edition page 376.

    I first read Samuel Shem. MD's classic in 1979, before i started my internship. I thought it was hilariously funny. The thirteen laws of the House of God, the Gomers, (patients in almost vegetative states, respond better to treatment if you do nothing for them because they never die) TURFING (transferring your patients to another service), BUFFING (documenting procedures on Gomer's charts so the attending physician would think you are treating them, when in fact you are doing nothing), LOL in NAD (Little old ladies in no acute distress--like Gomers don't treat).

    Now, twenty-seven years later, after a Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency at Cook County Hospital in Chicago and many years of private practice I find it insulting to the medical profession.

    Yes, I was scared, yes, I was abused, yes, I made mistakes, and yes, I was ostracized. But Cook County made me a first rate Obstetrician-Gynecologist. And what Dr. Shem seems to forget that Residency is the easy part. Private practice is what's difficult. True, the pay gets better but the responsibility does too. When you are in a residency program there is always someone you can call to help you solve a problem. But when you go out into the Private world: the buck stops on you, and you only. The hours don't get much better; and these days doctors are not respected like in the old days.

    Between patients questioning your judgment, to unscrupulous lawyers: selling their souls for an easy buck--the malpractice suit--it gets worst.

    But i would not trade any pf my residency days, nor any of my private practice days for anything. I am a very lucky man to have practiced an art that is slowly dying. I LOVED every patient, every call--the adrenaline rush exists to this day. I would not had wanted it any other way!

    I pity Dr. Shem, and hope that his experiences after his residency were better. Perhaps he was not made to be a physician at all.

    1 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2005

    It is a classic

    I am an emergency nurse for over 20 years. I am now buying this book for my daughter who will be attending medical school. This book will never go out of date!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2013

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

    Awesome book, have ready it several times and it is never boring. After working in the medical profession, the book is "RIGHT ON"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2012

    Great book

    A grrat look at the workings of medicine. Scarey.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2012

    A classic for all medical interns

    I dont know how I would have practiced these last fifteen years without reading Shem...I certainly would have been the poorer for terminology. A must read!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2009

    I must in the Emergency Medical line of work

    I came about reading this book when several of the senior RN's and Medics where laughing to the point of tears and refurning to this book. Thay gave me some small trails of the book and I had to get the book that day. It starts out low and then your OMG what do they have me reading. But, please read the whole book. Its great and gives you a new look at some of the not so good parts of the job. Just helps to get me through the day at time. You to could be laughing at the point of tears with your peers.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Hilarious

    This book is one of the best books for any medical school student, resident or anyone who wants a laugh.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2007

    True but difficult to read...

    I am currently a medicine intern and while most of what is written still exists (except for amount of hours worked), I had trouble reading it simply from the standpoint of how the book was written and the excessively graphic sexual encounters described multiple times throughout the novel. I do think that premed students should read this book so they are aware of what they are getting themselves into before applying to medical school. I think I would have thought twice about going to medical school had I known what it was really like.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2005

    A must read for anyone in the medical profession

    This book describes my life as a nurse, with the exception of the sex!!! The 'rules' are hilarious, but sometimes frighteningly accurate!!! Without a doubt, the first thing to do in a code blue, is take your own pulse!!! This book has kept me sane through over 20 years of nursing.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2004

    If you work or plan to work the 'house,' it's a must read!!

    I read this long ago. It's still true today. Gomers keep coming and the Q sign is never a good thing. Very funny. . .and true. Honest.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2003

    Where fiction meets reality

    Most lay people will read this and think that this couldn't possible be true and that this is fiction 'way up there'. In reality, the truth is just below the surface of the book...there was not a great deal of 'poetic license' taken. The book will have you laughing 'til your sides ache on one page and crying tears on the next. Very enjoyable and will give insight into the trials of the intern.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2001

    Cynicism with Some Truth

    I think one of the purposes of this novel is to satisfy our fantasies of what we would like to say or do to our fellow staff and superiors. Anyone arrogantly expelling such condescension to residents or attendings would surely be disciplined or fired, whether that seems morally appropriate or not. That said, I did learn more about my experiences as an intern with the help of both Basch and Berrys' realizations. Fortunately, today, some of us have more sophisticated internships and residency programs that run Balint group discussions. Here, young doctors gather to blow off steam, console, brainstorm, and unite with each other concerning patient and staff encounters. I think all the characters would have fared better with this implementation. All in all, take this book with a grain a salt but enjoy the relief it may bring you in identifying with some of the absurdities and struggles of being in the health-care profession.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2001

    A must read for all medical and nursing students

    I read this book while in nursing school. After reading this incredible book, it gave me the understanding of some the things I had heard around the hospital during clinical rotations. This is a MUST READ book for ALL medical and nursing students. I gives you a unique view of medicine and nursing.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2001

    Gomers do go to ground!

    Having 27 years of experience in both acute and long term nursing care, I found the book to be a laugh-out-loud parody of the aging process. It has helped me through some of the hardest times in nursing care through Shem's clever combination of truth and absurd exageration regarding the aging process and the medical community's outlook on it. I have purchased this book for quite a number of doctors and nurses I've worked with, and it always brightens their day.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2001

    A 'must read' for all healthcare professionals!

    My husband and I are both RN's with 30 years of combined experience in ICU and ER nursing. The House of God should be required reading in all nursing schools, medical schools, and for all EMT or EMT-P courses!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2001

    An MD classic

    I read this book first while in college as a premedical student. It (sort of) scared me out of medicine. Today in medical school I'm finding that the practice of medicine isn't as grim and simple as Dr. Shem writes, but is not as complicated as some young, aspiring MDs believe it to be. The House of God will put you in the shoes of an intern who, like you, hopes to learn all the intracacies of medical practice to 'help patients' before killing them. What he, like you, will fail to realize is that the only way to learn medicine is through experience and that no amount of book reading or studying can prepare you for the hell that is medicine. I'm still learning.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2000

    Easy with the praise!

    Being in medical school myself and having heard nothing but the best about the novel (or semi-fiction, whatever you choose to believe), I was nevertheless a bit disappointed; the beginning chapters are stuffed with great satire, much to my taste, but then give way to rather lengthy expositions on things of little substance.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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