cover image The Measure of Our Days: 4new Beginnings at Life's End

The Measure of Our Days: 4new Beginnings at Life's End

Jerome Groopman. Viking Books, $23.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-670-87570-2

The author of these poignant and ironic case histories of terminal patients belies the stereotype of the cold, analytic scientific researcher. A professor of immunology at Harvard Medical School and the Chief of Experimental Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Groopman writes with the eye of a poet, the heart of a philosopher and the voice of a novelist. In the opening memoir of his father's sudden death when the author was in medical school, he reveals the root of his need to find understanding in the final chapters of life. Now an oncologist and a specialist in the treatment of AIDS, Groopman often walks the wards with the shadow of death at his shoulder, but he writes with the assured wisdom of one who has faith in the meaning of life. We meet a hard-edged, successful old-money businessman with kidney cancer and regrets. A woman balancing the treatment of her breast cancer between chemotherapy and Taoist precepts challenges the doctor's attitudes toward alternative methods. The tale of the gifted homosexual architect from Switzerland who fears both life and death becomes an exploration of the spirit of love. Groopman closes the circle of his reminiscences with the current, ongoing cycles of his mother's own treatment for breast cancer. These and the other extraordinary portraits of life against death are informed by the author's grounding in a living biblical vision of teaching and healing. First serial to The New Yorker; author tour. (Oct.)