*Canada Reads 2019 Longlist
*Winner of the 2017 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction
Do no harm is our most important rule, but we break it all the time trying to do good.
In this deeply personal book, winner of the 2017 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction, humanitarian doctor and activist James Maskalyk reflects upon his extensive experience in emergency medicine. Splitting his time between a trauma centre in Toronto's inner city and the largest teaching hospital in Addis Ababa, he discovers that though the cultures, resources and medical challenges of the hospitals may differ, they are linked indelibly by the ground floor: the location of their emergency rooms. Here, on the ground floor, is where Maskalyk confronts his fears and doubts about medicine, and witnesses our mourning and laughter, tragedies and hopes, the frailty of being and the resilience of the human spirit.
Yet, he is swept most intimately into this story of "human aliveness" not as a physician, but as a grandson carrying for his grandfather, now in his nineties.
Masterfully written and artfully structured, Life on the Ground Floor is more than just an emergency doctor's memoir—it's a meditation on health and sickness, on when to hang on tight, and when to let go.
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The problem with memoirs, especially when they are written by Western doctors heading off to Africa for work, is they can be self-indulgent and messianic in tone. Dr. James Maskalyk deftly avoids that trap in his highly acclaimed first book, Six Months in Sudan . . . [and] he's done so again in his new memoir, Life on the Ground Floor. . . . [His] idealism and passion are obvious . . . but the strength of the book is that it captures the viscera, real and symbolic, of the ER—its sights, sounds, smells, pulse—without romanticizing the work. . . . Ultimately, that's what the book is about—making connections, across continents, culture and social classes, and clinging to the joyful moments that can be found amid the horror.
The Globe and Mail