A novel of meticulous brevity and a tone and vision all its own, transmuting the practice of medicine into a larger exploration of humanity, the meaning of care, and the nature of annihilation—physical, spiritual, or both.
A young woman puts on a white coat for her first day as a student doctor. So begins this powerful debut, which follows our unnamed narrator through cadaver dissection, surgical rotation, difficult births, sudden deaths, and a budding relationship with a seminarian.
In the troubled world of the hospital, where the language of blood tests and organ systems so often hides the heart of the matter, she works her way from one bed to another, from a man dying of substance use and tuberculosis, to a child in pain crisis, to a young woman, fading from confusion to aphasia to death. The long hours and heartrending work begin to blur the lines between her new life as a physician and the lifelong traumas she has fled.
In brilliant, wry, and biting prose, A History of Present Illness is a boldly honest meditation on the body, the hope of healing in the face of total loss, and what it means to be alive.