Cost of Living

Emily Maloney has been both a hospital patient and an emergency medical technician. In the 16 probing essays of Cost of Living, she draws on both experiences to delve into mental illness, chronic pain and addiction--and their treatment. Though she has autoimmune disorders as well as depression, Maloney passes as a well person, and her familiarity with medical settings makes her an informed observer. "Some Therapy" lists 12 psychiatrists she saw during her childhood and teenage years for developmental differences or anxiety. At 19 she attempted suicide by overdose (she marks a second annual "birthday" to celebrate still being alive); it took years to pay off the care she received.

As an emergency room technician at Midwest hospitals, she later saw how medical procedures and supplies add up to astronomical patient debt. "This, somehow, totaled the cost of living," she writes. For some, that price is just too high. The book subtly questions such financial inequality: the author briefly earned six figures at a pharmaceutical company, working there just long enough to repay her student loans.  

In other essays, Maloney notes an epidemic of pain pill addiction among patients and colleagues ("For Pain"), worries a nonfunctioning EKG machine might have produced false results ("Heartbroke") and muses on hospital mortality ("Three Deaths"). Most pieces are centered on medical themes, but "Clipped," about her parents' poverty and her high school job grooming dogs at PetSmart, is a stand-out. Perfect for readers of Anne Boyer and Emilie Pine, this essay collection features thought-provoking musings on the value of life. --Rebecca Foster, freelance reviewer, proofreader and blogger at Bookish Beck

Powered by: Xtenit