I started this book one afternoon and wasn't really happy until I had the time to finish it up the next morning. It's the story of Ollie, a young man whose MCAT scores weren't enough to get him into medical school, so he becomes a medic (EMS) in Harlem. He begins, as many medics do, with the idea of helping to save people's lives. A mere eleven months later, after receiving very few thank yous from the individuals he and his colleagues pick up on a daily basis, dealing with Rutkovsky, a partner he respects but who is so far beyond burnt out that the phrase has lost all meaning, and struggling to feel something, anything, besides contempt for human beings, he finds he doesn't know that he cares about saving lives all that much anymore. Or, as his former girlfriend tells him:
"'Well, that's what I'm talking about, Ollie. You want to help people. That's your good quality. That's what I always liked about you. That's why you wanted to be a doctor in the first place. You were always like Mr. in college. But...I can hear it in your voice. Your good qualities aren't being used. They're getting beaten down.'" (p. 139.)
It's a great novel. Short, scary, but very thoughtful. And hey, it's a New York Times Notable book, so you can walk around holding it and feeling very cultured.