The Invisible Kingdom, by Meghan O'Rourke

Staff Pick

O’Rourke’s exhaustive—and at times, fittingly, exhausting—memoir and cultural history examines chronic illness from every angle. She traces her own experience from the first mysterious night sweats and shooting pains in her 20s through the years of escalating and unpredictable fatigue, rashes, brain fogs, and insomnia, against the larger story of the ever-changing conceptions of what “disease” is and how to treat it. Each loop back brings her bang up against today’s rising numbers of the chronically ill and these (mostly) women’s growing demands on a health-care system ill-equipped to help, let alone heal them (not to mention those less privileged than O’Rourke, which she does, albeit in passing). Often the system, with its harried providers, fails even to hear these patients whose profiles defy the usual (male-based) checklists. Determined not to be dismissed as “inauthentic,” O’Rourke spends years seeking out specialists, procuring esoteric foods, trying experimental treatments, and obsessively charting the arc of her various conditions. At last, though test results are inconsistent, a diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease, complicated by endometriosis, Hashimoto’s disease, and POTS, among other things, opens the way to a lasting improvement in her quality of life, allowing her to regain her lost sense of inner life, mother two healthy sons, teach, write poetry and a memoir remarkable not only for its important narrative but for its visceral evocations of the land of the ill.


The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness By Meghan O'Rourke Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594633799
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - March 1st, 2022