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A History of Present Illness


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About the Author

Anna DeForest is a neurologist and palliative care physician in New York City. Her writing has appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, and the Paris Review. This is her first novel.


"Insightful... a powerful and somewhat complicated read of a story about a young woman dealing with the intensity of becoming a doctor while she also faces the ramifications of her past and current personal life."--The New York Journal of Books

"Unusual, quiet, but dark ...The tone can be abstract, musing on poetry or anatomy, at other times, revelatory of medical norms and modes of expression. An original, disturbing new version of hospital fiction."--Kirkus

"[Anna DeForest's] writing is dreamlike and fragmentary, a sequence of vivid scenes that the reader must piece together, like a puzzle, to understand who exactly is telling us this story. The answer, tucked in the book's last pages, is a revelation." --Ellen Barry, The New York Times

"Brutal and brave, DeForest's novel is one of the best in the 'making of a doctor' genre. And its plucky protagonist, casualty and hero, roars a universal truth, 'We all hurt.'"--Booklist (starred review)

"Throughout, the narrator offers arresting reflections on the godlike powers doctors hold over their patients... This slim volume gives readers much to contemplate."--Publishers Weekly

"A stunning debut--original, creative and wholly satisfying, taking us not only into the medical world but into the human spirit. Anna DeForest is a writer to watch."--Danielle Ofri, MD, author of What Doctors Feel and When We Do Harm

"Anna DeForest stares death in the eye, understands it fully, and writes it down simply. Like all mortals, I've acutely needed this book all my life. At last it's here."--Sarah Manguso, author of Very Cold People

"A History of Present Illness is a singular read, full of beauty and wit and monstrous truth. It took me down dark corridors of loss and out into the too bright sunshine again. I've never read anything like it. Wholly original and shockingly brilliant."--Jenny Offill, author of Weather

"Nowhere else have I ever encountered such brutal wisdom--about life, about the body, about our shared circumstance as the future dead--delivered with such grace, such largeness of heart. Anna DeForest's fearless, unsparing debut is a life raft thrown out for all of us to cling to." --Garielle Lutz, author of The Complete Gary Lutz

"This book destroyed my heart, and then restored it. The raw eloquence of the language, the wisdom spiked with gallows humor, the young woman who transcends an early life of damage--the tension and triumph come from how easily the narrator's life could have gone the other way. She wonders: 'To get over what you've come from but to stay who you are. What would that even look like?' It looks like this novel, and it is beautiful."--Amy Hempel, author of The Collected Stories

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