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Six Months in Sudan: A Young Doctor in a War-Torn Village Hardcover – May 26, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When he signed up to do a stint with Médecins Sans Frontières in 2006, Maskalyk, currently assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Toronto, volunteered to go anywhere the organization wanted to send him, writing, No wife, no kids, no house, no debt, no one waiting for me to get back. He was posted in Abyei, an oil-rich region set squarely on the demarcation between north and south Sudan, where one of the bloodiest civil wars in Africa had recently ended. In a makeshift hospital, he saw dozens of sick people, most suffering—even dying—from treatable illnesses. In his six months of service, Maskalyk oversaw a measles outbreak and treated tuberculosis patients, mothers fatally injured during childbirth and countless malnourished children. Even if Maskalyk frustrates in his apolitical stance, refusing to ask why so many are suffering and merely lamenting the fact, he provides a raw and deeply felt account of his time in Sudan. (June)
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“This is an extraordinary book, a piercingly authentic account of the fear, confusion, and hope of a young doctor newly deployed to a humanitarian crisis wrapped around by a war. James Maskalyk's commitment to survival – his own as well as his patients' - illuminates this account of doctoring in the sort of desperate place where it couldn't matter more.” —Jonathan Kaplan, author of The Dressing Station“Maskalyk's soft prose is beautiful and invites with the right intimate details. He offers a rare window on the inner life of an aid worker, on what it means to be a humanitarian around the hard edges of war, and on the certain drive to go on. Why? Because in his words, `hope not only meets despair in equal measure, it drowns it.’”—James Orbinski, author of An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action in the Twenty-First Century“This journey is beautifully told in sharp beats, and lyrical notes. It is the voyage of a young doctor out into a hard world, and deep within his own heart.”—Vincent Lam, author of Bloodletting and Miraculous CuresSix Months is Sudan is a wrenchingly heartbreaking account of distant agonies almost too pointed to grasp. Learning about Maskalyk's work there is stirring, but the real miracle is this book paints a picture so precisely and vividly that it becomes impossible to look away. This is Maskalyk’s accomplishment, and his gift to the Sudanese and to us. The shame of our indifference retreats before his exhortation: ‘learn, and understand,’ and perhaps a more bearable future becomes possible for all of us.”—Kevin Patterson, author of Consumption

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (May 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385526512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385526517
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #774,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Over winter break, I read a book entitled Six Months in Sudan, by Dr. James Maskalyk. I am a Field Partner of Doctors without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), and was introduced to this book via Dr. Maskalyk's blog on their site. I am grateful that I learned of it, and that I had the opportunity to read through the memoirs of this caring physician.

Six Months in Sudan isn't a book written in a formal style with proper grammer and formatting throughout. Instead, it contains the honest memoirs of a Canadian emergency medicine physician who recorded his thoughts and experiences of serving in Sudan while they were still fresh and raw in his mind. It is a collection of memories, experiences, and emotions. He wrote while angry, depressed, anxious, and grieving. He discusses intimate moments and shocking injuries. He holds nothing back as he bares even his most private thoughts prior to his departure and during his term. He also discusses the isolation that he felt upon his return. This is, perhaps, the most honest book I've ever read.

It isn't a difficult read, and it is the kind of book that you don't want to put down once you've begun reading. If you're interested in medicine, public health, international affairs, or policy, you'll definitely appreciate this book. Even if you're not, you probably will. Beware, however, as this book is not edited for content that may make you realize that you take the comforts of your life for granted. It made me realize that I do so, and that the hardships I experience really are petty as compared to those of others throughout the world.

When you purchase Six Months in Sudan, Dr. Maskalyk donates a portion of the proceeds to Doctors without Borders and to a fund that will help students from Abyei, Sudan to access education, if the schools there are ever rebuilt.
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Format: Hardcover
Many thanks to Dr. Maskalyk for going to Sudan and for writing about it. This is a moving and troubling account of life without the many safety nets that hold us. Clean water, reliable electricity, access to medical care, more food than we need, education--these are all sorely lacking in Abyei. Dr. Maskalyk shares what he sees and experiences, and by omission, how troubling what he witnesses is to his soul. I couldn't put this book down and am so grateful for the opportunity to learn about a part of the world I knew very little about.
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By Penny on April 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I feel as though I have been waiting for this book my entire adult life. Maskalyk answered so many questions for me about what type of person can do this work and wether they remain untouched, intact afterwards. I liked that the author approaches his writting task responsibly knowing that people like myself will be reading it. I appreciate that he holds himself accountable in that manner. I love that he offers his reader a play by play view of what is happening and how he is or isn't dealing with it at the time. I love that he offers up and accepts the experience for what it is without too much analyzing. And above all, I love that it did affect him and that he took the time to humanize himself again and reflect upon his regrets so that he could share this experience. Beautifully writen, moving and unforgettable
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book took me on a daily basis to somewhere I could never visit, facing hardships and losses that would overwhelm me. But, he did so in an honest way that forced me ,in my comfortable existence, to face and embrace the daily struggles of those in Sudan.
Dr. James and his team, and some Sudanese patients felt like friends by the end of the book.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Have you ever heard of Abyei? Probably not. I sure didn't before I read this book. It's in Sudan, and it's where the author spent six months as part of the Doctors Without Borders program (MSF).

After completing residency, Maskalyk signs up for a stint in the MSF. He is taken to Sudan, to the village of Abyei which houses many soldiers and civilians and plenty of people needing medical attention. The hospital is small, but large enough to take traumas and between the diseases that run rampant in the area and the skirmishes with grenades, there is always someone to be healed.

Maskalyk is pretty rough on himself. And others at times, although it seems he has nothing but respect for his colleagues. In fact, he speaks better of them than he does himself. He seems to acknowledge that he has a detachment from his work and the pain and suffering around him. That he can't help but think of logical things even if a person has died. And it does seem cold. But it can also be a coping mechanism for everything that he has to see. I did find his honesty refreshing though and I wouldn't paint him a hero because of his thoughts, but do think that he did some good work while in Sudan.

This is a hard book to read because of the descriptions of suffering and illness and poverty. Because it's real life it shakes you to find out how people are living when sometimes the worse thing in your day is spilling your drink on yourself. It does offer perspective. And I like how he focused on being a new aid worker as most of the books I've read are from people who have been in a long time. The writing itself was good, although I found the epilogue disorienting. I understand he was showing his confusion at being home through that writing style, but I just found it hard to read.
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