A History of the Present Illness

Louise Aronson has a medical degree from Harvard and an MFA in Fiction from Warren Wilson College. As you might expect, her writing is greatly influenced by her work as a physician and her observation of the suffering of patients and their loved ones. She deftly molds this knowledge and experience into A History of the Present Illness, a masterful collection of short stories. Though her work brings to mind other physician-writers such as Abraham Verghese, Vincent Lam and Chris Adrian, Aronson's voice is all her own. Her creative take on the social consequences of a life in medicine, whether from the perspective of a doctor or a patient, is highly original, and she is remarkably adept at variations in narrative and story style.

In the collection's first story, "Snapshots from an Institution," a series of numbered paragraphs provide distinct descriptions, as if caught on film, of the last days of an elderly Chinese patient and her devoted husband in an American nursing home. "Blurred Boundary Disorder," written in the form of a letter, acutely depicts the thought processes of a psychiatrist who may herself be crazy. Other stories, in more traditional formats, feature an assortment of characters: a young Cambodian immigrant with a bed-wetting problem, a Latina physician dealing both with the death of her father and a runaway teen daughter, a doctor jailed for alleged murder. Regardless of style or format, however, Aronson's stories, and the characters within them, will not be quickly forgotten. --Roni K. Devlin, owner, Literary Life Bookstore

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