Book Review: The Karma Suture

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Sue Carey is a driven, 20-something doctor struggling to preserve her sanity, sobriety, and humanity in the corridors of one of Cape Town’s biggest public hospitals. Finding imaginative ways of saving patients is her life’s work, though finding a man who wants more than a one-night stand would be nice as well.

Guys… This book blew my mind. It is actually set in the hospital where I’m training – with a different name, though. Unless it has two names, which is possible.

Do you know how freaky-cool it is to read a book that coincides so well with your own experiences? Well, it is freaky-cool.

Dr Carey is a Registrar (a.k.a. Resident) in Internal Medicine. She has an Intern who is a little annoying and medical students who have learned how to get away with doing as little as possible (she teaches them with passion, though).

Written by author-slash-doctor Rosamund Kendal (who also wrote The Angina Monologues), it’s not surprising that this book is so accurate.

Dr Carey works as a locum at other hospitals to pay off her debt (I can see that in my future), tries to salvage her romantic life, sometimes drowns her sorrows with alcohol and struggles to keep in touch with her non-medical friends.

She writes poignantly about not allowing medicine to define one’s life, and of the efforts and desires to have something driving one beyond the title of “Doctor”.

“The time that I spend in hospital is so dauntingly real that it makes my activities and emotions outside of working hours feel childish and superficial, like a sitcom, a half-hour television comedy.”

It has been labeled as “Grey’s Anatomy came to Cape Town”, and although I’m not fond of that description, it has some truth. I think it’s more enjoyable than Grey’s, though. And more accurate, obviously.

The novel also has a wonderful sense of humour and wit:

[I realise this is not a picture of a virus. I liked the pink.]

Sue Carey is such a relatable character. Her disillusionment with the world and the empathy she has  for her patients made me feel like I had a kindred spirit.

Some criticism I’ve seen of the book is that “Sue is too judgmental”. WHAT? That annoyed me. This fictional doctor does wonderful work under horrible circumstances, and because she sometimes admits to her private audience that she gets angry with her patients for not taking responsibility, she is now judgmental? Stuff that, I say. People are so easy to speak when they are in cushy jobs that don’t expose them to the kind of realities that health care professionals see daily. And that’s why so many doctors end up only being friends with other doctors – not because they WANT to, but because those are the people who have to understand even if they wish they didn’t.

I’d recommend this book to any medical student or young doctor (even older doctors), as well as to anyone who likes a nice novel. It’s fictional, so it is quite enjoyable by a non-medical audience too. This is also highly recommended to parents/grandparents/family/friends of medical students or young doctors, especially in South Africa. It may explain matters to you better than your young acquaintance is able to do.

Definitely one of my favourite books of the year, so one more quote before I go:

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11 thoughts on “Book Review: The Karma Suture

  1. I LOVED this book! I read it a few years ago, fell in love with her writing, read the Angina Monologues, and now am eagerly awaiting something else by her! I think its great that you have found a book that can relate so well to your experiences:-)

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