cover image Our Long Marvelous Dying

Our Long Marvelous Dying

Anna DeForest. Little, Brown, $27 (224p) ISBN 978-0-316-56712-1

DeForest (A History of Present Illness) provides a ruminative if underdeveloped autofictional account of a palliative care doctor during the Covid-19 pandemic. The unnamed narrator works in a Manhattan hospital, where their job is to help terminal patients transition to death. The narrator’s home life offers little respite from the emotional strain of daily interactions with the dying. Their grief counselor husband is absent for much of the time, leaving them alone to care for their five-year-old niece while their brother is in rehab. As the narrator’s thoughts consistently turn to their recently deceased father, they try to make sense of their estranged relationship. Meanwhile, the virus seeps into every aspect of the narrator’s life. The narrative that emerges feels simultaneously like a documentary and a fever dream. Without a plot or much character development, readers may have a tough time becoming emotionally invested. Still, DeForest draws from their own experience as a palliative care doctor to write with acute perception about the thin membrane that separates life from death. Readers of When Breath Becomes Air will want to add this to their shelf. Agent: Sarah Burnes, Gernert Co. (July)

This review has been updated with further information.