A History of the Present Illness


“I was absolutely enthralled by these extraordinary stories.”

— Isabelle Allende

In 16 elegant and original linked stories, A History of the Present Illness takes readers into the lives of doctors, patients and families. Powerful and original, the book offers a deeply humane, striking voice and an incisive portrait of health and illness in America today. Lauded by Kirkus Review as “a promising debut” of a new literary voice, the book tells stories readers haven’t read before.

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

In medicine, the “History of the Present Illness” is the patient’s story and the first part of every patient note. Without it, physicians cannot truly understand their patients or how best to care for them. Louise Aronson’s A History of the Present Illness offers the same essential story about twenty-first century healthcare, showing its impact on real lives and exploring the role of stories in medicine. She creates a world pulsating with life that speaks poignant, insightful truths about what makes us human.

“Aronson’s examination of medical culture in stories, of the brutality and tenderness at home and hospital, is a gem.”

— Washington Independent Review of Books

"Aronson effectively illustrates just how jumbled life can be. Hope is limping barely one step ahead of sadness. Human devotion and division, responsibility to self and others are only a smidgen of the subject matter examined by talented and knowledgeable Aronson." 

— Booklist

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