The Invisible Kingdom, by Meghan O'Rourke

Staff Pick

O’Rourke’s exhaustive—and at times, fittingly, exhausting—memoir and cultural history examines chronic illness from every angle. She traces her own experience from the first mysterious night sweats and shooting pains in her 20s through the years of escalating and unpredictable fatigue, rashes, brain fogs, and insomnia, against the larger story of the ever-changing conceptions of what “disease” is and how to treat it. Each loop back brings her bang up against today’s rising numbers of the chronically ill and these (mostly) women’s growing demands on a health-care system ill-equipped to help, let alone heal them (not to mention those less privileged than O’Rourke, which she does, albeit in passing). Often the system, with its harried providers, fails even to hear these patients whose profiles defy the usual (male-based) checklists. Determined not to be dismissed as “inauthentic,” O’Rourke spends years seeking out specialists, procuring esoteric foods, trying experimental treatments, and obsessively charting the arc of her various conditions. At last, though test results are inconsistent, a diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease, complicated by endometriosis, Hashimoto’s disease, and POTS, among other things, opens the way to a lasting improvement in her quality of life, allowing her to regain her lost sense of inner life, mother two healthy sons, teach, write poetry and a memoir remarkable not only for its important narrative but for its visceral evocations of the land of the ill.


The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness By Meghan O'Rourke Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594633799
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Riverhead Books - March 1st, 2022

In Love, by Amy Bloom

Staff Pick

When it became clear that Bloom’s husband had Alzheimer’s and not just a case of Mild Cognitive Impairment, he insisted that he’d “rather die on my feet than live on my knees, “and it became Bloom’s job “to figure out how.” Her powerful, clear-eyed, and often remarkably funny memoir reports the inexorable stages of this terrifying disease and the attendant magical thinking, along with the couple’s somewhat race-the-clock efforts to let Brian exit while still the “loving, goofy, candy-sharing, soft-touch Babu” they wanted the grandchildren to remember. Bloom quickly exhausted the possibilities of U.S. right-to-die laws, frustrated at the deliberately narrow provisions of physician-assisted suicide, which didn’t match their goals at all. A better fit was with the Swiss organization, Dignitas, which offers “accompanied suicide” for those wishing to escape old age, or terminal illness, or some unbearable pain or disability. Since 1988 it has helped more than 3,000 end their lives as they wished. In what is at once a victory and a loss, Bloom’s husband met the stringent requirements—“sad…kinda angry...but not afraid.”

In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss By Amy Bloom Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593243947
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Published: Random House - March 8th, 2022

City of Incurable Women, by Maude Casey

Staff Pick

Casey’s unsettling book juxtaposes—and questions the nature of—fiction and fact for a moving consideration of the women inmates of the Paris Salpêtrière psychiatric hospital. The official documentation of photos, case histories, and diagnoses reduces the women to the fulfilled expectations of hysteria—contractions of the limbs, paralysis, rhythmic chorea, and “violent emotions,”  while, by contrast, Casey’s invented narratives detail the experiences of individuals variously born in poverty, abandoned by fathers, given up by mothers, abused by employers, and—literally—inscribed with the name of the hospital by the doctors who exhibited as much as studied them. And who never cured or released them. Unlike Casey who, in giving them voices and endowing them with a skilled novelist’s lyrical, rhythmic language—“when I broke every plate in the furrier’s house, the sound glittered like the sea”—has arguably done both, even as she also shows that this 19th-century malady exists on a continuum with martyred saints, burned witches, and today’s chronic fatigue patients.

City of Incurable Women By Maud Casey Cover Image
ISBN: 9781942658863
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Bellevue Literary Press - February 22nd, 2022