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Promising new book: "Right of Thirst"

Albuquerque emergency doc and novelist Frank Huyler's latest, Right of Thirst, features as its protagonist an American cardiologist whose international medical aid mission encounters some serious setbacks.

In an essay in the June issue of Harper's magazine, critic Benjamin Moser writes that Huyler's cardiologist

"...causes nothing like the havoc of Graham Greene’s Quiet American, but he does inadvertently get some people killed. Huyler, however, is far too sophisticated a writer to dismiss his idealism out of hand: at the end of a spectacularly failed 'aid' mission, it is this idealism, directed not at the entire provinces of bedraggled strangers Anderson had envisioned but at a few individuals as hapless as he is, that saves his journey from utter calamity."
It sounds as though this book might be of particular interest readers of Canadian Medicine who have in the past read about former MSF president and Canadian MD James Orbinski's harrowing overseas medical aid experiences (THE INTERVIEW: Dr James Orbinski's war), the six-month stint Toronto's Dr James Maskalyk did in Sudan (Six Months in Sudan excerpt), and leftist Montreal infectious disease specialist Dr Amir Khadir's time overseas before he was elected to the provincial legislature in Quebec (Left-wing MD elected as Quebec gives Liberals a majority).

Also: if this is your kind of thing and you want to know more about medical volunteer opportunities overseas available to Canadian doctors (which will surely prove more successful than the one in Right of Thirst), check out the Doctor's Review website for descriptions of organizations as well as advice on how to get involved.

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  1. sharon26 May, 2009 9:19 AM

    RE: the medical missionary

    Hoping the reader will be able to overcome issues of "disambiguation" and "ethnocentricity"....... may I say the following :

    This book sounds like a good read based on several 5 star reviews......... but why the poor sales record?

    Having had a taste of the " medical missionary" experience myself I learned the following :

    1. if "guilt" is the "motivator to go ...then "shame" will be your ticket home.

    What do I mean by that?

    To unilaterally decide that you "can" make a difference according to your own definitions and interpretation of same is clear evidence that you come from the soft underbelly of the Western society. If you go as a seeker in the guise of a provider you are destined to fail. Even if you make a contribution you will come away feeling like a failure ( as some seek exoneration for this they yearn to return to "get it right").

    2. if loving your neighbour "as" yourself is your motivator make sure things are good between "you and yourself" (key)before you go

    On one stint I was introduced to a life-long "do-gooder missionary" who had ?selflessly helped others for many years with tangible results. In personal conversation the inspiration for his life change was running from a guilt experience that he never resolved. [ With respect to my disambiguation comment I say " what a shame!"]

    3. If you expect to return to a society that can understand, grasp, care about your insights ......get over it!

    You will never go to a garden party again without feeling pain. You will never find a "club of comrades" who are comforted by camaraderie. You are finally destined to understand what " with great knowledge comes great sorrow" means. You must find a balm yourself for your own solitary soul.

    4. there is an upside ..believe it or not.
    You do understand the "animal" side of the human animal.

    You do see the things that domesticate it and also return it to it's feral state.

    You do learn to say " there but for the grace of God... go I.

    You do learn to abandon the "concept of hero" and do things in the future with the heart of a servant .

    Q- Is entering the world of the medical missionary amenable to sanitization and sterilization of thought or deed?


    Q- do you have to go all the way across the world to become a medical missionary?


    Q- will you ever come back from the experience with the ability to resume your old life?

    NO... but now the door is open for you to take the secondary journey of "redefining" your new life.

  2. Anonymous27 May, 2009 6:31 PM

    those are very interesting, thoughtful comments.

    incidentally, the book just came out, and few people know about it

  3. Frank27 May, 2009 6:33 PM

    those are very interesting and thoughtful comments

    the book just came out, and few people know about it

  4. sharon27 May, 2009 7:21 PM

    Hi Frank ...

    The price range on Amazon is pretty broad.... making the event look like a sale ( but maybe they do this from the get-go as a marketing ploy?).

    One commenter was surprised at store placement ( back of the shelf) for what she considered such a good read.

    Right now I am into some real-life Public Health "reads" discussing ' stewardship, financing, and resource generation' ?Now that's reallife ? non-fictional interesting.

    However, I too indulge in occasional short fiction writing outlining the adventures of Purley Quirt... .....but I would be aiming at Max Kaiser and his " site development as an indicator of how an author ( of anything) can reach the nanosecond attention span of modern man.

    ..........Some food for thought..........

  5. sharon28 May, 2009 10:37 AM

    P.S. I think it is very ironic that Thomas Wolfe's " You can't Go Home Again" was published posthumously.

    However, in my experience...

    ..regardless of "outer" influencers.... if "inner"influencers are managed right...... you can even smell the apple pie on the window sill

    I like to create epiphany experiences for the reader which sometimes means the storyline is structured to simply outline a "process" ...not necessarily a reality.

    To hear a "Eureka!" is better than an " accolade".


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