BOOK REVIEW: The Gifts of the Body by Rebecca Brown

The Gifts of the Body

I have a keen interest in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, so I admit I was predisposed to like this book, and I was not disappointed. It is certainly of that time and therefore may seem dated, but it’s a valuable lens into the final months, weeks, and days of individuals who died from the disease.

The narrative follows an unnamed home health care aide who assists people with AIDS with cooking, cleaning, and chores but also provides necessary companionship. Her patients have some diversity. Though most are white men, she also aids an elderly woman who contracted HIV through a blood transfusion during a mastectomy and an African-American patient who was a well-traveled professor before becoming ill.

As the book charts the deteriorating health of the patients and presents a vivid depiction of end-of-life issues for AIDS patients and their friends and families, it also documents the relationships that develop between care workers and patients as well as the emotional strain that can come from loving a person who is near death. It is a realistic and heart-wrenching account.

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