Bloodletting is a bit unusual in that it is a short story cycle: the short stories are all loosely linked by four doctors, introduced in the first two stories: Fitz, Ming, Sri and Cheng.
There is something here for everyone though the opening story How to Get into Medical School Part I was easily my favourite. How to opens with two University of Ottawa students struggling through finals. Ming and Fitz have been study partners, but they both feel their relationship deepening into something more. Ming is quick to put a stop to this, sighting a dedication to getting into medical school as a cause, though she is also put off by the fact that Fitz is white, something her Chinese family would never approve of. Lam does a brilliant job of unfolding the delicate dance between Ming, who is all sensibility, and Fitz who is all sense as they try to deny their attraction at the same time as they give in to it. The story works completely on its own, but there is a great follow up How to Get into Medical School Part II, which is equally worth reading.
However Lam has greater ambitions than to simply follow the personal dramas of his collection of doctors. As the book branches out the doctors become secondary characters and the patients begin to take over although this is brilliantly reversed as the book draws to a close as in later stories the doctors contract diseases themselves, slipping into the position of patient as they weaken and eventually die.
A gritty, interesting work, and a peak at the vulnerability of doctors who snap at patients, who go through the motions, who sometimes barely understand it is that they are doing.
*Sarcasm for all the times I have been told this. Once I started actually reading short story collections I realized I loved them, and the people who denounce them are usually people who have never read one in their life.