The Book of Jesse · Reviews


Jesse’s hospitalization is tragic because violences are done to him and to his family who must consent and collude, and because at least in retrospect, his death seems inevitable, early in the course of events . . . [C]oncluding this book with recommendations for how to improve the system in which Jesse died would be like Sophocles ending Oedipus Rex with proposals for mandatory pre-nuptial family histories. The challenge of The Book of Jesse is how long we—as professionals, as parents, and as those who will be patients—can sit with our pity and fear.
— Arthur Frank, author of The Wounded Storyteller and At the Will of the Body


The Book of Jesse is, in a word, a triumph. Exquisitely wrought by the father, the book is a compelling chronicle of his son’s illness and death. Jesse, by virtue of his illness, is the hero but it is the author’s pain and love that are unutterably poignant. The effect of such a calamity upon a family is told with candor. The dark underside of modern medical technology is revealed with no holds barred. I have never read a more moving story of illness and bereavement. It deserves the widest readership.
— Richard Selzer, author of Confessions of a Knife and The Exact Location of the Soul


Rowe’s son Jesse died in 1995, following a lengthy illness that involved liver transplants and hospital stays. His response to the tragedy is a touching tribute of a father’s love to his fallen son . . . The poise with which Rowe writes belies his anguish, yet he manages to turn harrowing events into a beautiful elegy.
Publisher’s Weekly


Rowe . . . has written a harrowing tale that is about as close as we may get to an inner glimpse of what parents might experience on the roller coaster ordeal of therapeutic misadventure . . . In offering his honesty, his insights, his anger, and his own suffering to us, Rowe offers a rare gift.
— John Lantos, M.D., author of The Lazarus Case


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