An eviscerating chronicle of life as a pediatric resident in two dissimilar Boston hospitals.
It is not easy to like Weir at the beginning of the book. She does not deign to edit her responses to what were often dire circumstances, and she writes with greater deliberation than she displayed on the ward. On the page, she lets her emotions flow exactly as they did at any particular moment, informed by her education or anger about extremely difficult scenarios, such as the tiny premature baby with multiple complications whom she would have let go, his present and future so hopeless, but whose parents refused to surrender. Or the parents who “ask questions for the sake of asking them, to feel involved, much as children do when they are three or four.” Or the teenagers, “with their propensity for sullenness and outright lies, their inability to state in any simple and straightforward terms what was bothering them and why they needed to see a doctor.” Slowly, without making a show of it, Weir demonstrates that she is simply being fair to her understanding of each situation. She never gives any less than her best, but a resident’s workload is impossibly punishing and the situations wretched. She not only gathers the medical talent that may cure a life-threatening problem, but she shows the ineffable will to push through the fugue states and existential despair, a misery testified by another resident during a review session: “It would have been helpful if someone had told us ahead of time that all the Onc kids were going to die.” Readers will weep at points, but, without guile or fanfare, the author also presents many instances of tenderness.
As the cold certainty of heartbreak surrounds her, Weir’s sharp honesty begets the doctor’s best friend: trust.