Sunday, May 1, 2011


"In Stitches" by Anthony Youn with Alan Eisenstock (Gallery Books, $25) is a funny memoir from one of the country's best-known plastic surgeons.

This isn't a gossipy book about who got the latest nip-and-tuck procedure or what actress had too much work done - instead it's a fascinating look at what forces shaped the career of a prominent expert.

It focuses on the challenges faced by Anthony Youn, a Korean-American who grew up in the small town of Greenville, near Grand Rapids.

His strict father, an OB-GYN specialist, had high hopes for Youn and his brother, but as a nerd with Coke-bottle glasses, Anthony had difficulties adjusting. Having a protruding jaw that required surgery didn't make his life any easier.

After high school, Youn attended Kalamazoo College, then went to Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine. A major part of Youn's book is devoted to his eye-opening experiences on and off campus.

Youn and his roommates party heartily and diligently seek romantic conquests, but also study a lot. They're trying to figure out what their specialty should be in the field of medicine.

Deciding that he didn't want to follow in his father's footsteps was an easy choice.

Youn's challenges multiply - further studies take him to Grand Rapids and Springfield, Ill.

His experiences as a medical intern showcase many inside details of hospital procedures that patients don't really think about. He also explores burnout and overworking issues.

"In Stitches" is a fast-paced, mesmerizing autobiography that's laced with dark humor and memorable scenes, including his discovery that a woman he's dating works as a carnival fire-eater.

It's fun to follow Youn's growth from a geeky nerd to a well-respected member of society. There are many classic confrontations between Youn and his hard-working, well-meaning, highly concerned parents.

The prominent board-certified plastic surgeon has offices in Troy. He has received national exposure as a frequent television guest on the Rachael Ray Show and the CBS Early Show, among others.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, 
has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on May 1, 2011.

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