4 out of 4 stars
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The struggle it takes for a female, foreign-trained doctor to establish herself in the medical profession in the United States can be overwhelming. Shen was born in Indonesia to a Chinese diplomat, so she lived a life of considerable means. But spending World War II in China threatened her life. Luckily, she, her parents, and her siblings survived the ordeal. Upon entering America after earning a medical degree in the Philippines, Shen encountered many “culture shocks.” Somehow, she found herself on the path to becoming a pathologist. During her career of thirty-seven years, she had to put in the work to stay afloat, especially after getting married and having kids. In A Tale Out of Season, E. Mei Shen shares her professional journey in America and the impact it had on her life.
Shen’s story was absorbing to read. From the very first page that detailed her arrival in the US to the last page, I was hooked. There was no thrill or suspense to her story. Rather, it was how seamless her narration was that did the trick. While readers with a medical background will benefit the most from this read, with Shen using words unique to the medical culture, readers with no background in the profession can sit back and have a couple of laughs at some of the author’s ordeals. The situation with her first daughter’s nanny could not have been fun while it was happening, but I found the nanny’s audacity hilarious. Shen's fluid narration enhanced every event and made my reading experience more enjoyable.
A Tale Out of Season is an apt title for this book; it is truly a tale out of season, the author’s reminiscences of her long and eventful career after retirement. Another striking thing was how Shen managed to fit so many things into a 160-page book! She included how she started her career, some childhood events, and many things in between. There were no frivolous words, but Shen still showed a lot of emotion so that the book did not seem like a shallow, mindless narration. I got to see just how every situation affected her at each moment without it feeling superfluous.
While this book’s brevity is to its credit, I still would have appreciated more details. For one, I would have liked to see pictures. Pictures would have made every event more real. The author mentioned so many people that affected her career, and it was difficult to visualize all of them without any reference. Even the pathology slides Shen mentioned flew over my head because, without a medical background, I could not properly imagine the scene.
This book will be invaluable and even entertaining to anyone with a medical background who enjoys short medical dramas. I wished the story would go on, but I still gained invaluable knowledge without it being overbearing. I believe this book received professional editing, but I would have preferred its organization in chapters. Instead, it was just one long narration, which reduced the professionalism I earlier attributed to the book. Nevertheless, I rate A Tale Out of Season 4 out of 4 because everything else was on point, and the issues I mentioned are slight and do not detract from its quality.
A Tale Out of Season
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