Another “pitch-perfect book of short essays” (New York Times Book Review) from the acclaimed author of Blood of Strangers, this one exploring the contemporary practice of medicine from the perspective of a doctor with 25 years of experience in the ER.
In the late 1990s, a young physician in Albuquerque, New Mexico, published a stunning memoir of his experiences in the highly charged world of the ER. Presented in a series of powerful, poetic vignettes, The Blood of Strangers became an instant classic.
Now, over two decades later, Dr. Frank Huyler delivers another dispatch from the trenches—this time from the perspective of middle age. In portraits visceral, haunting, sometimes surreal, Huyler reveals the gritty reality of medicine practiced on the razor’s edge between life and death.
From the doomed, like the Iraq vet with a brain full of shrapnel, to the self-destructive, like the young woman who inserts a sewing needle into her heart, to the transcendent, like the homeless Navajo artist whose sketches charm the nurses, Huyler assembles a profound mosaic of human suffering and grace, complemented by episodes from his personal life: the hail that fell the night his wife gave birth, his drive through a snowstorm to see his father in a Colorado ER, the beautiful wedding of his childhood friend with terminal cancer. Melding hard-earned wisdom with a poet’s crystalline vision, Huyler evokes the awesome burden of responsibility, the exhaustion, the relief of a costume disco nurse party, and those rare occasions when the confluence of luck and science yield, in the author’s words, “moments of breathtaking greatness.”
White Hot Light offers an unforgettable portrait of a field that illuminates society at its most vulnerable, and its most elemental.
About the Author
Frank Huyler is an emergency physician in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the author of the The Blood of Strangers, The Laws of Invisible Things, and Right of Thirst. His poetry has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Georgia Review, and Poetry, among others.
“High stakes lyricism infuses White Hot Light.... At times his style owes something to the rapturous economy of Denis Johnson, and the people drifting in and out could well find a home in a Johnson story.... Huyler's work is implicitly political -- he lays bare the cruelties of poverty, and of for-profit health care in particular -- but maintains an elemental tone."
— Harper's Magazine
“Huyler depicts the crises he treats with vivid and cinematic detail, but the book is less about the salacious depiction of trauma than it is an investigation into the vulnerabilities and resiliencies of human nature.”
— Santa Fe Reporter
"Huyler, an ER doctor who began as a poet, is a writer who makes every word count…. In terse, riveting vignettes, Huyler confronts us with enigmas, images and ironies often memorably welded together. The work of a now veteran ER physician, White Hot Light offers added authority (“The Gun Show” should be required reading for every American) – and also wisdom, as Huyler turns his cool gaze not only outward but also inward."
— Rachel Hadas, TLS Books of the Year
“Haunting…instantly grabs readers’ attention….Huyler’s compassionate perspective and gripping stories result in a memorable account of the life he leads and the patients he sees, and sometimes saves.”
— Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Tales from the emergency room, told with no-nonsense brevity, clarity, and compassion. In this long-awaited follow-up to The Blood of Strangers, Huyler returns with more interesting, largely stand-alone stories from his work in an ER in Albuquerque…. The title aptly describes the illumination Huyler brings to patient care—and to writing about it.”
“[Huyler] tells it like it is, but also manages to craft these windows into various lives that will haunt you long after you’re done…. Captures life, death, the decisions that change our lives, violence, and grace—all at once.”
— Book Riot
“Huyler brings a beauty and thoughtfulness to crucial issues affecting medicine and society at large. Within the visceral brutality, the writing is thoughtful and self-reflective, the collection a study of caring.”
— Shelf Awareness