A unique sense of intimacy prevails in Pauline Chen’s first book, “Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality.” In this engrossing memoir, full of surgical detail, Chen, recipient of the George Longstreth Humanness Award at Yale, meditates on her experiences as a student and physician. She reveals her own fear of death, as well as the problems the medical community has in teaching doctors to confront this sensitive (and inevitable) issue. From her med-school cadaver to her beloved Aunt Grace, she methodically examines how learning to deal with death can offer some important insights into life. Although rich in scientific explanation (case studies and facts abound), “Final Exam” satisfies both sides of the brain. Beautiful prose is infused throughout, proving Chen’s ability as an empathetic surgeon and a skilled writer. “There is something intensely personal about surgery,” she writes. “Our hands are in our patients’ bodies, caressing them as no lover ever could.” (Laura Castellano)
Pauline Chen reads from “Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality” January 31 at International House at the University of Chicago, 1414 East 59th, (773)753-2274, at 6pm. Free.