The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness

Riverhead. Mar. 2022. 336p. ISBN 9781594633799. $28. HEALTH
In this personal and deeply moving exploration of life with chronic illness, O’Rourke (The Long Goodbye) focuses on her own illness and weaves in the history of Western medicine and interviews with medical practitioners and researchers, for an overview of how Westerners regard autoimmune disease and chronic illness. O’Rourke details that the conflict isn’t necessarily between a sick person and their disease but between a sick person and symptom-based Western medicine and health care. Chronic illness, in particular autoimmune diseases, manifest as painful acute symptoms and also vague periods of “unwellness” but different and changing over time and seemingly unrelated, the author explains. Without persistent self-advocacy, a support network, and a wealth of resources (and as O’Rourke illustrates so poignantly, even with these things), diagnoses may take years or never happen. O’Rourke acknowledges the white privilege and relative wealth that color her experience and reminds readers that health outcomes and diagnoses depend on race, class, and gender identity and expression.
VERDICT This work may serve as an affirmation that people living with chronic illness are not alone. For those close to one with chronic illness or who would like to learn more, this firsthand account is both moving and educational.
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