Last week I read All Bleeding Stops by Michael J. Collins. I was sent the book late last year and when I was initially sent the synopsis I thought it sounded interesting, but I was still surprised by how much I actually liked the book and got really captivated by the story.
All Bleeding Stops is told from 3 different times/places/perspectives, but the bulk of the story follows Matthew Barrett. Barrett is sent to Vietnam as a combat surgeon and during his tour there he sees the most horrific things. Soldiers who come in with multiple gunshot wounds, soldiers with limbs blown off, etc. He operates on these men of varying ages, so many of them just 18 years old, for hours only to see them not survive the night after surgery. His time in Vietnam changes him and he wishes he could be like his colleagues who don’t seem to be affected as much. They tell him to try his best; he can’t save everyone so best not to dwell. But he does dwell. He is haunted by the people he sees.
Slowly losing it, Matthew is saved by a nurse that arrives, Therese Hopkins. They work together and fall in love, but war is kind to no one. Even after the war, Matthew struggles and doesn’t know if he can ever move on from his time in Vietnam.
There are a few short chapters interspersed in the book told in 2017 from the point of view of Captain Wesley Underwood Tillinghast. During Vietnam he was a JAG lawyer and he recounts his experience with Matthew Barrett when Barrett was court martialed.
Lastly, there are a few chapters also interspersed throughout the book also told in 2017 from the emergency room of Loyola University Medical Center. These chapters are told from the point of view of a young intern named Megan. She wants to be a pediatrician, but is thrown in an emergency situation when a plane crashes and tons of people are rushed into the ER. The chief resident hands off an old man to her with a metal pole impaled into his stomach. Nervous and having to work alone because everyone else is seeing to other hurt patients, Megan tries to help this old man. He ends up walking her through some of the steps because he is/was a doctor and can tell she is new. Knowing there is nothing they can do to save him – he will bleed out if they try to remove the pole – she keeps him comfortable and listens to the story he wants to tell.
I was really captivated by this whole book. I don’t know a ton about the Vietnam War or conflict, but so much of it is so disturbing and the things Matthew saw as a surgeon would traumatize anyone. I truly felt for him when he was going through so much and acting totally human and people only saw him as “messed up” or “not right in the head”.
There was a little twist at the end that I did not see coming until right before the reveal. The thing I had assumed to be true for almost the entire book ended up being wrong! But, I actually really liked the twist because it made me feel better in a way. I don’t want to give away what the twist was, but I was happy with it.
If you like historical fiction particularly about Vietnam, then check this book out!
*This book was sent to me complimentary, but all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.*