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How People Prevail in the Face of Illness

A-AnatomyHopeCan hope contribute to a clinical recovery? Oncologist Jerome Groopman pondered this question after his rehabilitation from a back injury that had debilitated him for 19 years. In a word, yes. "I see hope as the very heart of healing," he writes, "as vital to our lives as the very oxygen that we breathe." Much of Anatomy of Hope consists of portraits of cancer patients Groopman has treated over the past 30 years. One young woman, mired in hopelessness, died of breast cancer, while George, diagnosed as terminal, doggedly held on to hope and survived. The book's final section discusses current research into ways to help patients remain hopeful and thereby facilitate recovery, or, at the very least, overcome pain and fear.
Random House. 248 pages. $24.95.

Houston Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Groopman has a true narrative gift. The Anatomy of Hope is a touching and inspiring read. One need not be suffering some acute condition to profit from the book." Nora Seton

Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Groopman ... writes with a clear, crisp, unpretentious prose that keep the reader interested and the pages turning. ... The Anatomy of Hope is a book about healing and life." Kenneth M. Ludmerer

NY Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Any book on cancer with the word 'hope' in its title runs the risk of falling into chicken soup and schmaltz. But Groopman manages to sidestep this greasy sentimentalism by turning to the surprising and troubling stories of his patients." Siddhartha Mukherjee

Oregonian 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[T]o read his straightforward account of his increasing fascination with the possibility that hope matters enormously in healing is a revelation. Here, caught in one slim volume, is Health Care Central stepping gingerly into a riveting new era." Brian Doyle

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Groopman writes with profound compassion. The kind of hope, the kind of love, that shines through this book's pages could have saved a cardiac patient like my father who, despising doctors and distrusting their motives, chose to die when his heart failed, rather than submit to surgery." Judith Warner

Critical Summary

Groopman writes with the authority earned from his long career as a hematologist and oncologist, professor at Harvard Medical School, and medical staff writer for the New Yorker. Reviewers contend that this slim volume is useful for people suffering serious illness, and just about everyone else. While at times the case histories seem one-dimensional, they aptly illustrate Groopman's points with sensitivity and insight. Interestingly, Groopman never defines hope in his work. Instead, he shows how individual patients view hope, as a cure, as a joke, or whatever else, and how it affects their outcome. Both patients and their healers must constantly strive toward hope, he argues. The Anatomy of Hope also highlights the uncertainty of medical diagnoses and serves as a reminder to physicians and other healthcare workers to present their patients with choices.