An astonishingly well written book that illuminates life's meaning without a trace of maudlin sentimentality. It is a cliche that life's lessons are learned in the face of impending death. Groopman goes far beyond the obvious, however, in this remarkably perspicacious book. Part medical primer, part memoir--of both the author's life and practice and the lives of his patients--the book chronicles several cases of catastrophic illness. Some live, forever changed by their reprieve from a final encounter with the Grim Reaper. Others die, although not before reaching epiphanies about their what their purpose on earth had been. Chief of experimental medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and a leading researcher in cancer and AIDS, Groopman has a patient for just about every confusing question that arises at this tricky life-death juncture. He provides a perceptive view of the medical profession as well. Groopman's willingness to bare his soul and reveal his misgivings and hesitancies provide a heretofore unseen view of the hell through which dedicated caregivers pass as they treat dying patients. ""So much loss and pain in God's world,"" Groopman writes as he watches the death of his comatose teenage patient, Matt, who beat leukemia only to get AIDS from a contaminated blood transfusion. ""I looked down at Matt in a coma and, although I know there was no answer, had to ask why . . . I stood confused, still stubborn in my faith but harshly questioning it in the midst of senseless suffering. Despite these feelings of bewilderment and doubt, I prayed in my heart for God to help."" The well and the sick alike will find much to ponder here--this is the kind of book whose thoughts and messages linger long after it has been closed.