THE ALCHEMY OF ILLNESS by Kat Duff

THE ALCHEMY OF ILLNESS

KIRKUS REVIEW

 From the sickbed of a woman of ``mystical temperament'': very personal, sometimes quirky, essays on illness, blending 20th-century psychology with holistic spirituality. Duff, a counselor in private practice in New Mexico, became ill in 1988 with chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), an illness for which there is as yet no cure: The only remedy is a few years of rest. Because she has an illness that is poorly understood by medical science, Duff questions the Western approach to medicine and health and looks outside it for answers to her questions. Illness, she asserts, defies the rules of ordinary reality and shares in ``the hidden logic of dreams, fairy tales, and the spirit realms mystics and shamans describe.'' This is a world where Duff seems to be exceptionally comfortable. She finds deep significance in her own visions and dreams, and she draws analogies between illness and initiation rites, noting that each involves a loss and that each may result in a new wisdom, a new power. Some of her conclusions are extraordinary: A meeting with a shaman leads her to the idea that her own illness is somehow connected to her ancestors' unfair acquisition of Indian land in Minnesota generations ago. Less startling is the link Duff makes between the onset of her illness and her recollection of having been sexually abused as an infant and her subsequent work with this memory in therapy. Readers accustomed to more straightforward accounts may find Duff's musings difficult to accept; still, her insights into common attitudes toward illness, and into the changes wrought in an individual by illness, are often enlightening.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-42053-3
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1993