Tuesday, September 15, 2020

WHITE HOT LIGHT :: Frank Huyler

A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is republished here with permission.

"When they brought him in, he was almost alive.... He tried to save the boy.... So he acted, right then, without waiting for anything or anyone.... There was beauty in his ruthlessness.... Flesh parts to a scalpel effortlessly, like the wave of a hand." Frank Huyler has practiced emergency medicine in Albuquerque, N.Mex., for more than two decades (The Blood of Strangers). As he shows in White Hot Light, Huyler is also a poet, his prose as smooth and cutting as the aforementioned scalpel.

A selection of 30 essays, White Hot Light begins mercilessly with "The Boy," as the trauma team tries to save a teen gunshot victim. Huyler then pointedly flips his perspective to the other side of the lights in "Hail," contemplating the fetal heart monitor tracking the health of his wife and yet-to-be-firstborn child. Huyler's insightfulness paints his pieces, particularly as he ages, as a new generation joins the trauma unit and technology advances. In "The Machine," Huyler eschews the use of a chest compression machine that brutally breaks ribs in its mechanical attempt to restart a heart. In the end, he's wrong, but never shies from self-scrutiny, for better or worse.

Whether in a standalone piece or one of a theme--violence ("The Gun Show"), opioid abuse ("The Motorcycle"), nurses and other staff ("The Sunflower")--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.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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