A History of Present Illness: A NovelAlso available bargain edition
This “brutal and brave” (Booklist) novel transmutes 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.
2023 Rosenthal Family Foundation Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters • A Lit Hub Most Anticipated Book of 2022 • A Publishers Weekly “Writer to Watch”
“A revelation.” –The New York Times
Anna DeForest is a neurologist and palliative care physician in New York City. Her writing has appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, and the Paris Review. This is her first novel.