Monday, May 02, 2011

Review: This Won't Hurt a Bit

This Won't Hurt a Bit: (And Other White Lies): My Education in Medicine and Motherhood

About the Book:
Michelle Au started medical school armed only with a surfeit of idealism, a handful of old ER episodes for reference, and some vague notion about "helping people."

This Won't Hurt a Bit is the story of how she grew up and became a real doctor.

It's a no-holds-barred account of what a modern medical education feels like, from the grim to the ridiculous, from the heartwarming to the obscene. Unlike most medical memoirs, however, this one details the author's struggles to maintain a life outside of the hospital, in the small amount of free time she had to live it. And, after she and her husband have a baby early in both their medical residencies, Au explores the demands of being a parent with those of a physician, two all-consuming jobs in which the lives of others are very literally in her hands.

Au's stories range from hilarious to heartbreaking and hit every note in between, proving more than anything that the creation of a new doctor (and a new parent) is far messier, far more uncertain, and far more gratifying than one could ever expect.

My Comments:
One problem I often have with memoirs is that they seem self-absorbed.  The other is that they sound whiny.  I mean realistically, few people write memoirs that can be sub-titled "My wonderful pain-free life".  Still Dr. Au manages for the most part to avoid both.  Yes, this is her story, and no, she doesn't sugar-coat the rigors of residency, especially residency as the mother of an infant, but she doesn't come across as asking for sympathy for poor little her or as railing against the big bad establishment which is causing her so much pain.  She shares some funny stories--she enjoyed labor (after the epidural) because it allowed her to lay around in bed all day watching TV and some serious ones--commenting on the lack of casualties to treat after 9-11 (what a thing to read today).  

As someone who has made certain career decisions, primarily the decision not to pursue a high-powered, highly paid career, so as to be available to my children, I found it interesting to read how she and her husband (also a resident) managed as the parents of a young child, and was glad to see that once her residency was over, she chose a job that would allow her time at home.  I guess though that she is one of those classic over-achievers, since she managed to write a book in her spare time.  If you are interested in how your doctor was trained, I think you'll enjoy this book.  Grade:  B.     

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  


  1. Memoirs are my favorite genre and this sounds like an interesting one.
    Excellent review!

  2. I love the cover! With the sock monkey, that is hilarious!


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