This is a collection of 23 stories, five of which take the form of "letters" in which an older physician (not surprisingly, a surgeon) gives advice to an imaginary young surgeon. However, every one of the stories "fits" as a tale that might be told in such a letter--assuming the author was a wise and gifted writer, in addition to being a surgeon.

The book begins with the gift of a physical diagnosis textbook on the occasion of the young doctor's graduation ("Textbook") and ends with a reflection on "your first autopsy" ("Remains"). Among the other stories are Imelda (see annotation), Brute (see annotation), Toenails (see annotation), Mercy (see annotation), "A Pint of Blood," "Witness," "The Virgin and the Petri Dish," and "Impostor."


This collection might be considered a modern manifestation of the old tradition of telling cautionary tales--stories that convey (or suggest) moral wisdom to the initiate. In its pungency and humor, the book is specifically reminiscent of C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters, in which a senior devil gives advice to a junior devil on how to corrupt their human charges. Many of these tales are useful texts for discussion in medical ethics or humanities courses.


Simon & Schuster

Place Published

New York



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