Claiming to be “old enough to die,” feminist scholar Ehrenreich (Living with a Wild God) takes on the task of investigating America’s peculiar approach to aging, health, and wellness. She comes down hard on what she describes as “medicalized life”: the unending series of doctor’s visits, fads in wellness, and preventative-care screenings that can dominate the life of an aging person. Ehrenreich’s core philosophy holds that aging people have the right to determine their quality of life and may choose to forgo painful and generally ineffective treatments. She presents evidence that such tests as annual physicals and Pap smears have little effect in prolonging life; investigates wellness trends, including mindfulness meditation; and questions the doctrine of a harmonious “mindbody” and its supposed natural tendency to prolong life. Contra the latter, she demonstrates persuasively that the body itself can play a role in nurturing cancer and advancing aging. Ehrenreich remains skeptical and scientifically rigorous throughout her inquiry, a combination she attributes to her time in the women’s health movement and her doctorate in cellular immunology. That this knowledgeable book arrives in the context of an urgent American healthcare crisis, when many people can’t access or afford healthcare, may irritate some readers. Still, Ehrenreich’s sharp intelligence and graceful prose make this book largely pleasurable reading. Agent: Kristine Dahl, ICM Partners. (Apr.)
This review has been updated with corrected author representative information.