That Good Night: Life and Medicine in the Eleventh Hour

Viking. Mar. 2019. 320p. ISBN 9780735223318. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780735223332. MED
OrangeReviewStarDoctors are supposed to preserve and prolong life, writes Puri (Keck Hosp., Norris Cancer Ctr., Univ. of Southern California), but what if a patient no longer wants to continuing living in pain? In this moving memoir, the author intertwines her parents' story of emigrating from India to the United States with her own journey of being a young doctor in a young medical specialty—palliative medicine, or quality of life for those with serious, often incurable, illnesses. Inspired by her mom's career as an anesthesiologist, Puri attended medical school and unexpectedly became drawn to medicine's gray areas and the silence around mortality. As she moves from a medical residency in San Francisco to a home-based palliative care unit in Los Angeles, Puri describes the emotional toll of communicating hopeful or hopeless news, especially to women experiencing pain at all ages, and the uncertainty of what it means to "get better." Puri's writing shines when it's most personal; considering the intersection between spirituality and science, and seeing people turn to or away from faith in times of illness.
VERDICT An affecting read about the limits of medicine and embracing that which is beyond one's control. The stories of Puri's patients and their families will resonate with readers.
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