Always on Call: Memoirs, Stories, and Essays by a Doctor
Always on Call: Memoirs, Stories and Essays by a Doctor is a compilation of the writings of Doctor Allen Malnak. As he explains at the beginning of the book, the book is in four parts: Beginnings and Hardships, At the Hospital, More Stories, and Letters from the Doc. The book integrates both fiction and non-fiction written by Dr. Malnak and isn’t organized into any particular order. Each story is special all by itself, but it is easy to see the underlying themes threaded throughout the book.
Wanting to become a doctor ever since Dr. Kelly came over to his house as a child to “cure” him of whooping cough, Allen ends up facing a pitfall when he goes to school. Allen realizes he doesn’t see colors as the other kids do, and after he is tested, the teachers concur that he is colorblind. This proved to be especially difficult when completing science lab experiments in which color was the indicator of whether you got it right or not. The stories go on to share some great adventures with his brother Lewis, living as a Jewish boy in a Christian community, and discovering young love. Most of the stories seemed to be true recollections, with some embellishments here and there to make the stories exciting. There are also stories that are obviously fiction, such as “The Emperor’s Prophet,” which is about a woman who tells Napoleon Bonaparte about his future and what happens when he does not listen to her.
My favorite stories were the ones about the different patients Dr. Malnak treated. His personal touch and dedication to his patients really made these stories heartfelt. For example, there was a woman named Marie, a single mom of two, who was dying of cancer. Her dying wish was to bring her girls to Disneyland. Dr. Malnak and his team worked hard to make Marie strong enough to complete her wish. Marie had the best time ever and died a few weeks later. In all of his stories about the hospital, he shows how much he cared about his patients and did right by them. I found this to be truly commendable.
Overall, Always on Call: Memoirs, Stories and Essays by a Doctor is an exemplary read about a doctor who has colorblindness, epilepsy, diabetes, and chronic heart disease, among other ailments and has been able to persevere. I would love to see this book separated into three separate volumes: The Life of Dr. Allen Malnak, Fictional Short Stories, and Current Events because it would be much easier to follow. The reader is taken on a ride through Dr. Malnak’s life and into the creative processes of his brain. This book will make readers laugh, cry, and have their jaws dropping.
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