Title: The Doctor’s Dilemma
Author: Daly Walker
Genre: Short story anthology
The coronavirus pandemic has brought medical professionals to the center of attention on the world stage. There has never been more of an awareness of the daily struggles or a greater interest in the day-to-day life in a hospital environment. The Doctor’s Dilemma brings together a collection of short stories that highlight the highs and lows of practicing medicine, and the lives of those who have made it their life’s work to care for others, even as they go through their own personal difficulties or struggles.
Individually, the caliber of these stories ranged from being merely interesting to being incredibly gripping and profound. Standouts included the story of a doctor burdened by the guilt of losing a patient and the tale of two lovers who met during the Vietnam War, reuniting decades later. These stories are snapshots of a moment in time rather than long drawn-out narratives. In lieu of a plot, readers are instead treated to an intimate glimpse of real lives as told from the perspective of real people.
The intimate feel is further enhanced by the seemingly insignificant details peppered throughout the book that serves to ground readers to the unfolding scene: the brim of a state trooper’s hat, a patient’s blue nail polish, the gold cross worn around an orderly’s neck, the smack of a scalpel handle against latex gloves, the sweet taste of pumpkin bread—tiny, yet evocative and effective details that went a long way to adding to the atmosphere of the story.
The short story format limited the author in terms of character development. There was little room for fully conveying the character’s backstory or charting their growth as a person, all these meaty little moments that make us root for a character were understandably sacrificed when one needs to condense a story into a few pages. However, where Dale Walker allowed his stories to breathe, as in the story of the man still grieving for the loss of his wife, he was still able to create three-dimensional characters that would resonate with readers.
The stories in this collection were curated to revolve around the themes of morality, mortality, and immortality. There were some stories that felt like they didn’t belong to the overarching theme. In particular, the stories in the morality section felt less cohesive than the other two. But what the stories lacked in cohesiveness, it more than made up for it in the way it was able to capture emotion perfectly: the chaos of a shift in the emergency room, the high stakes of surgery, and the quiet desperation when it feels like nothing you do makes a difference to the sick or dying.
As a whole, the author succeeded in pulling together stories that touch on what can be considered life’s unanswerable questions: Why are we here? Where are we going? In addition, the book also aimed to cover the broad grey area in-between that is the years we spend on this earth trying our best to navigate the bumps along the way. The Doctor’s Dilemma chronicles life in the hospital frontline, but even more importantly, it faithfully encapsulates the lives of the men and women underneath the scrubs and the people behind the mask, allowing readers to see beyond the stethoscope they carry, and making it relatable at a deeply personal level for anyone who has ever suffered pain and loss.
This Editorial Review was written by the Book Review Directory staff. To receive a similarly honest, professional review for one of your own books, click here.