The Book

A History of the Present Illness

“I was absolutely enthralled by these extraordinary stories.”

–Isabelle Allende

16 elegant and original linked stories from a potent new voice—a doctor with an M.D. from Harvard and an M.F.A. in fiction.

A History of the Present Illness takes readers into the lives of doctors, patients and families in the neighborhoods, hospitals and nursing homes of San Francisco. It introduces a striking new literary voice and offers a deeply humane and incisive portrait of health and illness in America today.

An elderly Chinese immigrant sacrifices his demented wife’s well-being to his son’s authority. A young veteran’s injuries become a metaphor for the rest of his life. A gay doctor learns very different lessons about family from his life and his work. A psychiatrist who advocates for the underserved may herself be crazy. A busy doctor juggles an errant teenage daughter and a seriously ill father.

 VIEW THE TRAILER of Louise Aronson discussing A History of the Present Illness.

Together, these honest and compassionate stories provide a view of what it means to be a doctor and a patient—unlike anything we’ve read before. Readers are taken “behind the curtain” into the anxieties, elation and exhaustion of the physician experience. At the same time, the book illustrates the challenges faced by patients from varying socioeconomic backgrounds battling sudden and chronic diseases and compassionately illustrates the psychological toll illness and caregiving take on patients and the people, family and professionals who care for them.

 Read REVIEWS and PRAISE for A History of the Present Illness.

In medicine, the “History of the Present Illness” or “HPI” is the critical first portion of the medical note that describes the onset, duration, character, context and severity of a patient’s illness. Essentially, it is the patient’s story, and without it, a physician cannot understand what is going on with their patient. Louise Aronson’s A History of the Present Illness explores the role of stories in medicine and creates a world pulsating with life, speaking truths about what makes us human.

Read excerpts of A History of the Present Illness.


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