"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. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review