Why do some people facing difficult circumstances find and sustain hope, while others do not? And what can we learn from those individuals who hold on to hope? How is their example applicable to our own lives? In his illuminating and inspiring book, Harvard medical school professor and New Yorker staff writer Jerome Groopman strives to answer such questions. Spanning some 30 years of his clinical practice, Dr. Groopman explores the many ways in which hope contributes to healing. Complete with artfully crafted plot, character, dialogue, denoument and epiphany, the book begins from a point of abject ignorance - when the author was a medical student and did not recognize the role of hope in patients' lives - and goes on to chronicle Groopman's growing understanding - and utilization - of hope in the healing process.
If there is an ''anatomy'' here, it isn't an archetypal, unitary anatomy. Instead, hope turns out to be something negotiated between patients and physicians, imagined and reimagined at every visit. Oncologists need to rely on an incredible team of specialists: palliative-care physicians, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. Even so, the day-to-day practice of oncology is routinely humbled by the task. In its most introspective passages, Groopman's book manages to convey the perverse subtleties of these negotiations: Dan has to be tricked into hope; for Eva, hope becomes a joke that she snickers at, but never quite gets. In the end, you might not know how to define hope precisely - but that seems to be the point. Groopman succeeds principally because he refuses to offer a simple, easily digestible thesis. Siddhartha Mukherjee