A valuable discussion of the complex issues involved in end-of-life care.




Journalist Neumann, a visiting scholar at the New York University Center for Religion and Media, takes an unflinching look at the reality of dying and end-of-life decisions.

“Knowing death makes facing it bearable,” writes the author in this chronicle of her six-year quest to come to terms with the death of her father. “There is no good death….It always hurts, both the dying and the left behind. But there is a good enough death.” Determined to follow her father's wish to die at home, the author and her sister tried unsuccessfully to care for him with support from hospice. He had decided after a 10-year bout with cancer to stop treatment, but the quiet death he envisaged was not to be. His pain proved intractable, and he was hospitalized. Two years later, still struggling with grief in the aftermath of her father's death, the author decided to become a volunteer for hospice. As a lay visitor her task was to offer companionship to the dying. The expectation is that hospice patients will not live longer than six months—though some do. The aim is to make their last days as painless as possible, not to prolong their lives. Neumann writes movingly of the experiences she shared with the people she visited: an elderly musician suffering from Parkinson's disease who wanted to hold his guitar once again despite his inability to play it, an 80-year-old doctor suffering from lung cancer, hoping to write an autobiography, and more. She also deals with deeper questions: what constitutes death for a person on life support who cannot give informed consent for its removal; does assisted suicide, which she supports, devalue human life and possibly curtail the rights of the disabled? Neumann does not sugarcoat the harsh reality of dying. “It always hurts both the dying and the left behind,” she writes.

A valuable discussion of the complex issues involved in end-of-life care.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8070-8062-7

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.


The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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