A striking, meditative debut novel by a practicing neurologist.
A HISTORY OF PRESENT ILLNESS
by Anna DeForest
Little, Brown, August 2022
(via The Gernert Company)
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.
“A singular read, full of beauty and wit and monstrous truth. It took me down dark corridors of loss and out into the too bright sunshine again. I’ve never read anything like it. Wholly original and shockingly brilliant.”—Jenny Offill, author of Weather
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.