I haven’t encountered many great books about experiencing and learning to live with chronic illness, but Life Sciences is definitely one of them. And it’s not a technical book either – I was surprised how something as unromantic and uncomfortable as being chronically ill could be expressed as poetically as it was in this book.
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★★★★✬ 4.5 stars
How I read this:
free ebook copy from Edelweiss
I’ve had my own experiences with the fatigue, alienation and inevitable dismissal by others that comes with being chronically ill or undiagnosed, and what a rocky road it is to make peace with it, to learn to live with it and maybe eventually get better.
From my experience, I can say that not only is this book incredibly on point and relatable, it’s also SO good to read, because you keep saying “yes, YES to this” as you go, and for someone who has been dismissed a lot of times when it comes to your health and how you feel, it’s a liberating experience. Life Sciences by Joy Sorman was definitely unforgettable like that, and it’s also inevitably tied to the experience of being a woman. It’s definitely a book you may want to pick up (although please do read the triggers that are listed at the bottom of this post.)
Quote: “Women often carry this delusion of being innately wrong, of needing to be numbed, controlled, caged or hidden”
The women of Ninon’s family from generations upon generations ago have all suffered rare, strange, mostly untreatable diseases, and when Ninon’s time comes, she’s surprised by how real it feels, as opposed to the family myth and its twisted sense of magic in the malady. At first Ninon struggles, aches and suffers. She fights. Slowly, she starts accepting her plight and goes back to life – although, now a very different life to the effortless existence that she seemed to have before.
She returns, but everything is different than it was, and Ninon understands how we can take being healthy for granted sometimes, but what a vast chasm there is between being healthy and being chronically ill. Ninon deals with the depression that comes with it.
For someone who’s suffered chronic, inexplicable pain, this book may be both triggering, and yet incredibly relatable. I wondered whether the author has suffered such pain, because she writes it so incredibly well. Starting with how it feels and where it takes you, to how the doctors will treat you (or sometimes won’t even believe you.) It’s all so accurate, I was baffled. To the point of banging your head against a wall, because you’re at the end of your wits and just want to distract yourself from the pain, so the ‘originally’ aching part of you doesn’t hurt anymore, at least for a bit. Who of you, chronic pain sufferers, hasn’t done this?
Throughout this book, Ninon mostly learns to interpret her pain differently, to make emotional sense of it – pain can’t really be rationalized most of the time, but it must be made some sense of, you must name it, place it somewhere in your mind, to be able to deal with it.
An image of the cover of Life Sciences on a Pocketbook Color ereader, there are some stacked books at the back, a dried flower bouquet on the right, some candy and necklaces around it, and the shadows fall on the image in patterns from the curtain lace; Photo by AvalinahsBooks
And even when
This is a very good book on chronic illness, dealing with it emotionally, as well as about the pain itself. But there’s also the fact that if you have suffered chronic pain, it might be hard to read. Ironically, I had a neck strain related headache the day I was reading it. It’s a chronic condition I’ve lived with for most of my life, and learned to deal with it (awful in the teens, just a minor inconvenience now.) It was barely there when I started reading. But reading about Ninon’s pain made my own pain intensify, because I couldn’t help but notice it. This is a natural thing, and it might affect you that way too. Make sure you are comfortable with reading books about pain.
But that said, it’s probably the most accurate book I’ve read about the experiences of getting sick, not being sure what you have, not being able to get any help, and then dealing with it, relearning how to live in the aftermath. This book is an experience. It’s quite unforgettable. And it also helps you feel understood – for once, not excluded as a chronic illness sufferer. It’s not just you who struggles to have fun outside of your little safe space, even after you’re feeling better, or not in a bad spell. It’s not just you who’s overprotective of yourself because you know how much one mistake will cost. It’s not just you who struggles to fit into the normal, even “act your age” sometimes, because you just don’t feel like you belong, and you just can’t vibe with the people who are “normal” or “your age”, because your experiences have somehow made you completely other to them and their problems, their ambitions or the way they see the world.
Chronic pain and illness, experiences of dismissal within the medical system, depression, self-harm.
Life Sciences is an incredibly good book about chronic illness and pain, learning to deal with it and make sense of it emotionally, as well as relearning to live your life either with the pain, or in the wake of it. It also focuses on a woman’s experience of being chronically ill. It may be triggering because of the pain the main character experiences, but it’s well worth reading, because it’s incredibly relatable and very validating.Life Sciences is an incredibly good book about chronic illness and pain, learning to deal with it and make sense of it emotionally, as well as relearning to live your life either with the pain, or in the wake of it: Click To Tweet
I thank the publisher for giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion.
I’m Evelina and I blog about books that made an impression on me. I love middle grade, women’s, scifi and some literary too.