Internal Medicine: A Doctor's Storiesby Terrence Holt
“Illuminates human fragility in tales both lyrical and soul-wrenching.” —Danielle Ofri, New York Times Book ReviewIn this “artful, unfailingly human, and understandable” (Boston Globe) account inspired by his own experiences becoming a doctor, Terrence Holt puts readers on the front lines of the harrowing/em>/p>/em>
“Illuminates human fragility in tales both lyrical and soul-wrenching.” —Danielle Ofri, New York Times Book ReviewIn this “artful, unfailingly human, and understandable” (Boston Globe) account inspired by his own experiences becoming a doctor, Terrence Holt puts readers on the front lines of the harrowing crucible of a medical residency. A medical classic in the making, hailed by critics as capturing “the feelings of a young doctor’s three-year hospital residency . . . better than anything else I have ever read” (Susan Okie, Washington Post), Holt brings a writer’s touch and a doctor’s eye to nine unforgettable stories where the intricacies of modern medicine confront the mysteries of the human spirit. Internal Medicine captures the “stark moments of success and failure, pride and shame, courage and cowardice, self-reflection and obtuse blindness that mark the years of clinical training” (Jerome Groopman, New York Review of Books), portraying not only a doctor’s struggle with sickness and suffering but also the fears and frailties each of us—doctor and patient—bring to the bedside.
Writing to make sense of his medical residency, Holt, a fiction writer (In the Valley of the Kings) and geriatric specialist at the University of North Carolina, elegantly tells a more far-reaching tale of illness and healing in nine stories. Holt narrates through the voice of a young doctor—a composite figure, as are his “patients”—beginning with the frustrating case of a woman too claustrophobic to wear an oxygen mask and too ill to be without it, whose agonizing death teaches the doctor that no singular heroics are necessary. As a mentor advised, “There was nothing to do. But at least we could have done it together.” There’s also the heartrending story of a cancer-stricken artist in hospice, whose home full of exotic birds and oil portraits offers a rare gift, and the strange yet touching story of a patient who kept forgetting his fatal diagnosis, but would light up at the “few faces in the world he can still remember.” Each exquisitely crafted and evocative tale reveals not only the power of Holt’s storytelling, but the stark realization that for doctors and patients alike, it’s our bodies that “remain the essential mystery we keep trying to solve.” (Sept.)
Think you've heard it all about the grueling, fatigue-driven years suffered by interns and residents once they get their degrees? Think again. Holt (In the Valley of the Kings: Stories, 2009) came 20 years later to medicine than most of his peers, choosing a writing career first. Whatever the reasons for that latter-day commitment, the result is a beautiful, riveting book that puts readers on the spot in the ward, in the ICU, making the rounds, talking to families, making hospice calls and participating in the "bedlam" of a "Code Blue" resuscitation. What Holt set out to do was to convey the "un-narratibility" of hospital life ("too manifold, too layered, too many damn things happening one on top of the other") in parables that would condense and transform the experience, as he himself was transformed. To that end, he uses composites of many different cases. In the process, he has created unforgettable portraits of the gravely ill or dying: the obese woman hospitalized for a "tune-up" to rid her body of excess fluids; the young woman who should have died from too many Tylenols but was saved by a liver transplant; the hospice patient whose face was covered by a surgical mask to conceal the loss of most of her lower face to cancer. "Nothing happens in these pages that doesn't happen every day in a variety of ways in hospitals everywhere," writes the author. "I have had to simplify what defied narrative form, and alter or suppress whatever might have compromised the respect patients deserve. But in making sense of residency within the constraints of narrative form and human decency, I have hewed as closely as possible to the lived reality of the hospital." Holt says that he wrote the book over a period of 10 years. Let's hope for a shorter duration before we next hear from this gifted writer/physician.
- Liveright Publishing Corporation
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Meet the Author
Terrence Holt is a writer and an internist specializing in geriatric medicine, teaching and practicing at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
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was an attention getter and was written in such a way that was easily understood. I enjoy books from several different subjects but this was one of my favorites no matter what my preference.
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