Life on the Ground Floor

Publisher: Doubleday Canada
A celebrated humanitarian doctor's unique perspective on sickness, health and what it is to be alive.


In this deeply personal book, humanitarian doctor and activist James Maskalyk, author of the highly acclaimed Six Months in Sudan, draws upon his experience treating patients in the world's emergency rooms. From Toronto to Addis Ababa, Cambodia to Bolivia, he discovers that although the cultures, resources and medical challenges of each hospital may differ, they are linked indelibly by the ground floor: the location of their emergency rooms. Here, on the ground floor, is where Dr. Maskalyk witnesses the story of "human aliveness"--our mourning and laughter, tragedies and hopes, the frailty of being and the resilience of the human spirit. And it's here too that he is swept into the story, confronting his fears and doubts and questioning what it is to be a doctor.
     Masterfully written and artfully structured, Life on the Ground Floor is more than just an emergency doctor's memoir or travelogue--it's a meditation on health, sickness and the wonder of human life.

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G is for ground.
 
I’ve been cutting down my shifts in the last few years so I can spend more time on Ethiopia. I work about ten a month now. It’s just enough to keep my skills up. Fewer, and my fingers fumble.
     When I graduated, I did twice as many. During those...
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PRAISE FOR

National Bestseller
Shortlisted for the 2017 Hilary Weston Writer's Trust Prize for Nonfiction
Finalist for the 2017 Toronto Book Awards

"The problem with memoirs, especially when they are written by Western doctors heading off to Africa for work, is they can be self-indulgent and messianic in tone. Dr. James Maskalyk deftly avoids that trap in his highly acclaimed first book, Six Months in Sudan . . . [and] he's done so again in his new memoir, Life on the Ground Floor. . . . [His] idealism and passion are obvious .  . . but the strength of the book is that it captures the viscera, real and symbolic, of the ER—its sights, sounds, smells, pulse—without romanticizing the work. . . . Ultimately, that's what the book is about—making connections, across continents, culture and social classes, and clinging to the joyful moments that can be found amid the horror." —The Globe and Mail

"A raw, authentic and deeply humanitarian memoir of life as an emergency physician, written with eloquence and wisdom." —Gavin Francis, author of Adventures in Human Being: A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the Calcaneum

"Another beautiful, tender and moving portrait of humanity from one of Canada's finest new, non-fiction writers. Life on the Ground Floor perfectly captures the human spirit in all of its complexities, weaving a powerful narrative that is at once gripping, evocative and tinged with humour. In the tradition of Ryszard Kapuscinski, Katherine Boo and Wilfred Thesiger, Maskalyk has a rare sense of people and place, bringing readers along on an extraordinary journey." —Samantha Nutt, author of Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies & Aid

"Maskalyk offers penetrating, honest and deeply personal insight into modern-day medical practice with all of its paradoxes, ambiguities and uncertainties. Life on the Ground Floor is yet another superb book from one of Canada's best writers, Maskalyk at his shining best." —James Orbinski, author of An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action in the Twenty-First Century

Praise for Six Months in Sudan:

 • "This journey is beautifully told in sharp beats and lyrical notes. It is the voyage of a young doctor in a hard world and deep within his own heart." --Dr. Vincent Lam, award-winning author of Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures
 • "Gripping and humane. . . . [A] brave and intelligent memoir." --Daily Mail (UK)
 • "Austere as the Sudanese landscape, plangent as a ballad, this book has poetry in it along with pain." --The Washington Post
 • "This is a rare memoir . . . with genuinely brilliant writing. I'm sure Maskalyk is a fine doctor, but he's an even better writer." --The Vancouver Sun