Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Gifts of the Body” as Want to Read:
The Gifts of the Body
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Gifts of the Body

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  465 ratings  ·  55 reviews
An emotionally wrenching work of fiction about a health-care worker who tenders compassion and love to victims of AIDS, by an author who "strips her language of convention to lay bare the ferocious rituals of love and need."--New York Times Book Review
Paperback, 176 pages
Published August 4th 1995 by Harper Perennial (first published 1994)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Gifts of the Body, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Gifts of the Body

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.29  · 
Rating details
 ·  465 ratings  ·  55 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Gifts of the Body
An AIDS novel by an author named Rebecca … no, it’s not The Great Believers; I failed with that book earlier this year, though I’m determined to try again because I’m such a fan of Rebecca Makkai’s work. Instead, this is a 1994 novella, or perhaps a set of linked short stories, narrated by a home care aide who bathes and feeds those dying of AIDS. The same patients appear in multiple chapters titled “The Gift of…” (Sweat, Tears, Hunger, etc.) – Rick, Ed, Carlos, and Marty, with brief appearances ...more
Sep 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
By one of the overlooked masters of contemporary prose, this book perfectly demonstrates the horrors of the AIDs epidemic and the small kindness one can show in the face of that horror.
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow... a very fast, gripping, and moving read.

This would definitely go on my "Death and Disease" book shelf alongside "Magic Mountain" and "Adentro una hiena." The rawness of the writing reminded me of "Lo que no tiene nombre."

The prose is VERY Raymond Carver-esque and I loved it. I liked how we learn NOTHING directly about what is motivating the narrator to do this kind of work (and then, it is implied, to quit doing it).

Also, unlike "Olive Kitteridge," I had no problem here keeping track of
Jul 26, 2008 rated it liked it
A naive description of the early days of the HIV epidemic and what caring for those dying people was like. Well-written and honest, compelling in its honesty, still this book reflects the early days in that it romanticizes the disease and those dying of it. As one who works with HIV patients every day, I can honestly say that dying of this disease does not inherently ennoble one any more than dying of bladder cancer or being run down by a truck.

One reason I feel it is dangerous to suggest that a
Aimee Dars
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. T
Louise Aronson
Nov 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: patient-books
Powerful stories from early in the AIDS epidemic from the perspective of a kind, smart home health aid. Fiction based on real life experiences. Interesting too, 20 years later, to note what has and hasn't changed. And of course many others with conditions other than AIDS find themselves in similar need of help and compassion.
Melanie Page
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I want to start by asking you to look at the cover image of The Gifts of the Body because it represents the feeling of the stories well, and the nudity is important. This is a slim collection of 163 pages, and within are 11 interconnected stories. In each is an unnamed narrator. I pictured him/her as the author Rebecca Brown, who was a home-care worker. Typically, when an author writes about such an intimate topic and he/she has done the work before, I immediately assume that the fiction is a go ...more
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I had never heard about this book till I read Will Schwalbe's Books for Living where this book was discussed. The Gifts of the Body is a fictionized account of a home health care aid who assists people with aids. The author was a home-care worker herself so she has much knowledge of what she writes. It is a very moving and sad book which brought tears to my eyes while reading it.
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have never read a book written so simply but with so much emotional heft. It’s raw and unfiltered and accessible. There are so many stories about this subject but none are quite like this - it almost defies description.

This was a tough book to track down, but I’m glad I did. You will be too. Bring the tissues.
Rachel W
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely stunning poetic work of storytelling. It's a fast read, but you won't want to read it fast. Each word, phrase, chapter demands to be absorbed into your bones. I will likely reread it many times now that it is a part of me.
Jacquelyn W
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is RAW. So simplistically written and yet completely enveloping and immersive. Sad, but not in a melodramatic way. Just pure human emotion that I haven't read in quite some time.
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book read it in a day.
A series of interconnected short stories from the perspective of a home-care worker during the AIDS epidemic. Well-written and poignant.
Julia A.
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the most emotional books I have read in a while. The ending made me cry so much.
Raf Linmans
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, short-stories
WOW. Just WOW. So simple, so accurate, so much feeling.. Thank you Rebecca Brown, your book has touched me deeply.
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book made me cry until there were no tears left, just sounds. I feel raw and ragged. This is an incredibly important book about a period of history that we can not afford to forget.
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Breath-takingly beautiful. A must-read.
Spoiler alert!

To realize this is a piece of fiction reinforces its beauty and impact. It reads so much like memoir or a personal journal that I get caught up in the lives, thinking they are real. I would imagine that somewhere they are. To perform the duties of a profesisonal caregiver to the dying takes a special person, and this narrator is a special person indeed.Even now as I write, my eyes are filling up and spilling over with the reality through simple phrases from the narrator’s client li
Apr 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own
Ouch, a punch to the gut. This book was pretty harrowing. I think its impact has a lot to do with Brown's plain launguage. I've read works by Rebecca Brown before and was struck by how sparsely worded her stories are, just the basics but so hard-hitting. It takes a clever writer to be able to do what she does with so few words. There's no superfluous waffling, just here's an AIDS patient and this is exactly what it's like. Not that I'd know - it took this book to make me realise how thankful I a ...more
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
I had never heard of Rebecca Brown before and I think that is rather strange since she is such a good writer; she is a complete revelation to me. I don’t cry easily while reading books but while reading “The Gifts of the Body” and especially at the end of “A Good Man” I cried like a baby. The stories are beautifully written in a clear, simple, even minimalistic style that reaches the reader, right in their hearts.
I think this work is so appealing because she is able to describe the great traged
jessi lee
Jul 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
a simple & devastating book about caring for other people when they're sick. i appreciate brown's style.

at times, i wonder if she's being a little condescending when she notices how some of the people she's caring for can act like children. but then i think about how i act like such a baby when i'm not feeling well & i just want to feel better. and how important it is, for the people who are close to me to both see it & be able to see me as more than that. or i get mad at her for not knowing ex
Jun 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: activism, hospice
Beautiful. True. The end left me weeping. Brown creates strong atmospheres with powerful, spare narratives, used to chilling effect in The Dogs and for a tense, creepy mood in The Terrible Girls. Her style suits difficult subjects. The Gifts of the Body tackles death, dying, pain, fear, grief, the body, and loss in stories of a home care worker assisting AIDS patients on hospice (people deemed to have six months or less to live) in the 80s (Brown was a home-care worker in San Francisco at that t ...more
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"The Gifts of the Body" by Rebecca Brown presents an insight into caregiving for terminal AIDS patients. The narrator, of the intersecting short stories, exposes a mixture of empathy and revulsion towards the certain and painful death looming over all of her charges. While each section, or story, is labeled by a different “gift” of the human body Brown represents the manner in which illness strips away these luxuries. The duality of the term gift presents parts of human anatomy and existence tha ...more
Aug 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
"'Your stomach?'
He tried to nod. 'Uh-huh. But everywhere some.'"
-The Gift of Sweat

"He kept looking at the TV. His eyes didn't change when the commercials came on. They were showing two white socks, but one was really white."

"I made myself not say anything, but I couldn't hide how I looked."
-The Gift of Tears

"But I didn't talk about anybody with anybody else. You weren't supposed to, but I wouldn't anyway. You tried to be only where you were, you tried not to add them up."
-The Gift of Speech
Nov 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Adults
Recommended to Janet by: Nancy Manahan
Shelves: favorites
A dear friend handed me this book last night saying, I think you will enjoy this. I had never heard of the book or the author.
i was transported by the spare beauty of the prose and the intensity of emotion Ms. Brown conveyed.
This slim volume, labeled fiction, rings of truth. The story of an AIDS home health care worker in the early 90s, is told through her interactions with several of her clients. It is by turns comic, tragic, touching, insightful, poignant and very real.

I read it straight thr
Dec 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Sparingly written yet extremely heartfelt, Brown's lucid prose sheds light on the intimate daily struggles of those suffering from AIDS. In an attempt to honour their life stories, Brown's homecare worker narrator describes her clients' joys, hopes, dreams, and fears as they await their death, in a searingly poignant fashion. Intensely emotional, Gifts of the Body is an eye-opening account of the very real human lives surviving behind the stigmatized facade of AIDS.
Jonathan Hiskes
May 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Brown, a former home-care worker, tells a series of interlaced stories about a hospice worker caring for AIDS patients in the early '90s. "Tender" and "intimate" are words I use too much in writing about literature, but few books demonstrate these qualities so magnificently. Despite the heavy subject matter, these are surprisingly engaging little stories. Now: what Brown book should I read next?
Jaykumar B
a series of episodes that are humane yet not sentimentalizing which could have easily be done with a subject like AIDS... Brown gives us snippets of haunting experiences in a seemingly mundane manner, they are wrapped in simple prose with information so dexterously hidden that one could easily overlook them... this is an important work about care...
Dec 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book opened my eyes to the simple gifts that we take for granted, such as the feeling of a cool breeze on freshly washed skin. Beautifully written. I loved this book, the images have stayed with many years after reading it.
Jan 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was written by a home health aide during the late 1980's. She worked in San Francisco exclusively with AIDS patients. How they dealt with their death sentences and the care and love between the patiens, the author and their families and lovers is wonderful.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • I Don't Want to Die Poor: Essays
  • Sticks & Scones (A Goldy Bear Culinary Mystery, #10)
  • Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors
  • A Grave Talent  (Kate Martinelli, #1)
  • Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration
  • Love Lettering
  • People in Trouble
  • The Tradition
  • Keeper
  • Lanny
  • Translations
  • And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic
  • Druid Vices and a Vodka (The Guild Codex: Spellbound, #6)
  • Cleanness
  • We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir
  • Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, the Flesh, and L.A.: Tales
  • My Alexandria
  • Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story
See similar books…
Rebecca Brown’s diverse oeuvre contains collections of essays and short stories, a fictionalized autobiography, a modern bestiary, a memoir in the guise of a medical dictionary, a libretto for a dance opera, a play, and various kinds of fantasy.

Related Articles

Diverse voices and sparkling debuts dominate today's contemporary short story collections. For this roundup, we took a look at the ...
82 likes · 8 comments