The Deep Places by Ross Douthat [9/10]

In 2015 New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, settling into new rural bliss, was struck by terrifying pain all over his body, often in strange places, rendering him sleepless and barely functional. It took a while but he discovered he had tick-born chronic Lyme disease, a diagnosis that is not even an official diagnosis, because 21st Century medicine does not recognise it. Thousands, it turns out, have it, yet in many cases doctors end up urging patience and therapy. No formal cure exists. “The Deep Places” is Douthat’s chronicle of the next five years and I have to confess I came to the book not out of any interest in the subject, but because I’d been wowed by an edited extract. And the book bears out that instinct of mine: it is beautifully written, propulsive yet intellectually multifaceted, horrifying yet always imbued with hope. The author manages to evocatively convey his passage to the netherworld of non-official remedies, be they huge doses of antibiotics or quasi-quack offerings, and to simultaneously debate both sides of the official-versus-alternative debate. Throughout, a deep sense of appreciation for everyday quotidian life, something Douthat could rarely experience pain-free, shines through. Dear reader, read The Deep Places to see a master writer in action, and maybe to learn something new about the medical world.

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