Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Dear Life: A Doctor's Story of Love and Loss” as Want to Read:
Dear Life: A Doctor's Story of Love and Loss
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Dear Life: A Doctor's Story of Love and Loss

4.52  ·  Rating details ·  1,303 ratings  ·  182 reviews
As a specialist in palliative medicine, Dr Rachel Clarke chooses to inhabit a place many people would find too tragic to contemplate. Every day she tries to bring care and comfort to those reaching the end of their lives and to help make dying more bearable.
Rachel's training was put to the test in 2017 when her beloved GP father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She lea
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published January 30th 2020 by Little, Brown
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 Dear Life, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Dear Life

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.52  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,303 ratings  ·  182 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Dear Life: A Doctor's Story of Love and Loss
Canadian Reader
Clarke’s is an honest, moving, and sometimes wrenching memoir. It covers her childhood with her physician father, her close calls with death in girlhood and youth, the decision to enter medicine in her late twenties after a successful but unfulfilling career as a journalist/documentary filmmaker, and some highlights from medical school and her time as a junior doctor. The bulk of the book, however, focuses on her work in a hospice as a palliative care physician and her experience of her beloved ...more
I’ve read so many doctors’ memoirs and other books about death and dying that it takes a truly special one to stand out. Whether you’ve done a lot of looking into illness and death or have never dared to pick up a book about such topics, I would urge you to read Dear Life. Clarke specializes in palliative medicine – “Rarely, if ever, does a week go by in which all of my patients survive.” It takes honesty, realism and tact to get patients and families to understand when death is imminent, but sh ...more
‘Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.’

I am emotionally drained from reading this book however, it has forever changed my life for the better.

I can completely relate to this book. Before losing my dad to cancer in 2017 I was afraid of death, didn’t want to speak about it, think about it or know anything about it. Which left me scared and left me with many unanswered questions when my dad passed.

Ever since then I have been trying to learn more about death. To not be so afraid of i
Chitra Ahanthem
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a book that will touch you in the deepest way possible. Rachel Clarke, a former journalist takes to studying medicine and through her interactions with the people she comes into contact, make us pause and think of what is it that a person wants most when he/she is sick and ailing. ‘Dear Life’ not only gives us a peek into the time when the author is the doctor but also gives personal insights of her experience of being a doctor, care giver and daughter in the section drawing from her mos ...more
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
“For the dying are living, like everyone else”

Dear Life is part memoir, part meditation on medicine, death and dying.

Much of the first half focuses on Rachel Clarke’s personal life. After a short career in journalism, Clarke surrendered to the inevitable and commenced a degree in medicine, following in her revered father’s footsteps. While completing her training in the NHS, Clarke unexpectedly found herself drawn to the area of palliative medicine.

As a palliative care doctor, Clarke believes t
Dan Myatt
Sep 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In 2019 I found myself in hospital, Dr's were unable to source the cause of my infection and illness and I was subject to many examinations and tests (MRI, CT, X Ray all happened more than once) it was discovered I had an abcess within my back and in surgery to remove it my body reacted by sending a massive toxic wave of poison through me causing Sepsis. I spent weeks in hospital recovering and months at home recovering and the 100 plus members of staff that looked after me did so as a human, no ...more
Judith Johnson
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is Rachel Clarke's second book, as well-written as her first one, Your Life in My Hands. Clear, informative and deeply moving, written from her perspective as a palliative care doctor working in a hospice, and including her own grief at the death of her father from cancer.

I would highly recommend this important book, and also the following, which deal with related issues:

What Can I Do to Help? by Deborah Hutton

In the Midst of Life by Jennifer Worth

Love, Medicine and Miracles by Bernie S. S
Iain Snelling
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was ok
I feel a bit churlish about giving a negative review.

There is compassion in the book, from a palliative care doctor, including a hastily arranged wedding in a hospice. The stories told of compassion at the end of life were touching but didn’t get much beyond what you might see in a tabloid newspaper.

As well as a sprinkling of these stories there are fragments of autobiography, and most significantly for the author an emotional account of her father’s death from cancer. The book seemed to be try
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a truly heartwarming book. Yes it was upsetting, but not in an awful way, but a truly inspiring way.
I found it uplifting and I can imagine that anyone who has recently lost someone, or someone whose life is ebbing away, as happens to all of us, that this wonderfully, poignant book would be.

What a wonderful book.
Iona Sharma
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Absolutely the worst time in my life to read this, but I picked it up and kept reading it because it is a wonderful book, clear-eyed on the realities of death and palliative care, but tender and hopeful with it. In part it's a manifesto for better end-of-life care, in part a memoir of the author's relationship with her father, and in a third part, a paean in praise of whatever life remains. I will probably read it more than once. ...more
Feb 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant thought provoking book.
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
***Thank you NetGalley for the uncorrected proof copy***

“For the dying are living, like everyone else.”

This memoir stirred many past emotions & memories for me as my mum developed cancer and spent her last few months in a local hospice. Thank you Rachel for giving me a better understanding of what my mum went through and how hospices work 'behind-the-scenes'. Each of your patients is lucky to have you caring and fighting for them.

'Dear Life' offers both sides of the story - a doctor working in
Linda Hill
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A doctor’s personal view of life and death.

What a book. I had reservations about reading Dear Life by Rachel Clarke as I thought I might find its subject matter too personal and difficult or the author too introspective, patronising or condescending. I’m not a great lover of memoir writing either. So when I consider the negative approach I had to beginning this read I’m slightly embarrassed by just how far from the truth I was. Dear Life is a wonderful, wonderful book that any person facing deat
Dec 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. What an incredibly profound and moving read; I don't even know where to start with my review of Dear Life because I just know that whatever I say will not do it justice.

This was definitely an emotional read; at many times throughout this book the tears were streaming down my face (which was a bit awkward when I had a work meeting in the next half hour) because it is such an emotive and insightful read. Rachel works in hospice; and I think we can all say that our understanding of hospices
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Rachel Clarke is a palliative care doctor and the daughter of a doctor. She didn't start her working life as a doctor - she started off as a television reporter. In this book she describes her early career in medicine and how she came to choose palliative care as her specialty. She then describes several (carefully disguised) cases to illustrate much of what a palliative care doctor does and why she finds it so rewarding. She also describes her father's diagnosis with advanced colon cancer, the ...more
Natalie Liddle
Sep 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A book that meant so much. Moved me and will stay with me forever.
Firstly I think it’s incredibly brave for this Doctor to write so frankly about her experiences not just as a Doctor and a medical professional but as a Daughter, Wife and Mother.
Death is a strange, often haunting and scary topic rarely discussed and whilst this book has had me in tears I’ve also felt strangely humbled and at peace.

I have often believed people who work with the terminally ill are particularly kind souls who I a
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There has been a flurry of medical memoirs recently, a genre I am always drawn too. This one by Rachel Clarke, a Palliative Care Consultant is one of the better ones. She weaves in stories about her practice, her medical training and her own personal stories in a way that carry the stories forward, and brought me to tears by the end.

We have lots of shows and books that talk about birth and pregnancy, but there is little to help us prepare for the death of family and friends, and our own demise.
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic and fascinating read, written with such love and compassion. Not a read for the faint of heart as it clearly touches he souls of many.
Death does not discriminate between young and old.
All of or bodies death will lay claim to them sooner or later.
The journeys we find ourselves taking in life, we eventually live them on our journey to death.
Rachel Clarke does what writers do and clarifies clearly how doctors chart the curve of prognosis through to death.
She does this with sheer compass
Sep 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was good but potentially too autobiographical for my taste. I suppose whilst she's a very inspirational woman it went on for too long about her childhood and not enough about the actual medicine. The first 100 pages or so were very slow but it got much better as if went on. I think it's an important read in terms of opening discussion about death and having those difficult conversations about palliative care. It also highlighted the poor mental health treatment in NHS care and how desperate ...more
Dec 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star
A moving and heartfelt look at palliative and hospice care today. The author writes so poetically that it’s no shock that she is a former journalist and avid reader herself; she writes about terrifying and difficult topics but still manages to find a way to make the stories beautiful.

I thoroughly enjoyed the authors last book, which I can also heartily recommend to fans of this genre. I’m eagerly anticipating her next release, due in 2021, about the global COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a must read
Linda Fallows
Sep 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This such an important book. It should be required reading for all health professionals. The frank and honest way in which the author describes her dealings with terminally ill people show that death is not something to fear, or be hidden away. We should all hope, at the time of our death, we are in the hands of someone so caring.
Nikki Cotter
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is beautifully written and thought provoking read. It offers real food for thought about the way in which we respond and react to terminal illness and how our capacity for compassion paired with understanding and love can bring huge comfort to the grieving. Highly recommended.
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is such a beautifully written book. Clarke describes how she swayed from a career in journalism to medicine with the stories of her father - him being a doctor - and patients that she writes about with so much compassion.

This book highlights death in such a magnificent way, not thinking about it as such a horrifying thing. This work took the ideas and memories of death in a whole new direction which I appreciated reading and I know others will as well.

Thank you Netgalley and the publishers
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant and well written aspiring book.
Duke Dahl
Jan 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
4.7/5: Dear Life is a touching, poetically written book about death. The author, Rachel Clarke, is a palliative care doctor who stresses the importance of compassion and connection during the final stage of life. Death is a unique human experience for each person; but as humans we have the choice to decide how we respond to this fate of being mortal.

Jennifer (JC-S)
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librarybooks
‘If doctors cannot fix things, then what is the point of us?’

Rachel Clarke, daughter of a physician, came to medicine after a career in journalism. Her father, an important part of this book, was also a doctor. While completing her training in Britain, Ms Clarke was drawn to palliative care.

This book is part biography, part meditation on the role of medicine in death and dying.

I read this book, remembering my own parents experience with palliative care, in Tasmania, ten and seven years ago. One
Mike Jennings
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Well ... here's the story. My Dad passed away two weeks ago and I stayed with him in his home for the last three days and nights. He was heavily medicated and in a deep sleep mostly, so I was basically watching him die (my Mum passed away six years ago). After he had died, in the week that followed I needed to clear his things from the flat so I could hand the keys back to the landlord. This entailed many trips to the household waste recycling place, the queue for which is always long at this ti ...more
Harriet Chaplin
Dec 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
The best book I have read this year - I cannot recommend it highly enough!

I’d like to start by saying that Rachel’s writing style is so eloquent; her use of language is truly beautiful, and immensely pleasurable to read.

The book itself follows the journey of a doctor working in palliative care, and a number of encounters she has with death and the dying. An important relationship underpins the entire book and becomes poignant later on; the significance of this relationship is cleverly concealed
Shar Clarillis
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
No words. Incredible
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Better Man (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #15)
  • Kingdom of the Blind (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #14)
  • The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust #2)
  • Now You See Them (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery, #5)
  • The End of the World Survivors Club (The End of the World Running Club, #2)
  • Every Last Drop
  • The Cows
  • The Farm
  • Never Tell (Detective D.D. Warren #10)
  • Who Killed Ruby?
  • The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz: A True Story of Family and Survival
  • Perfect Little Children
  • Swallowtail
  • The Complete Maus
  • How to Embroider Almost Everything: A Sourcebook of 500+ Modern Motifs + Easy Stitch Tutorials - Learn to Draw with Thread!
  • Keep the Doors Open: Lessons Learned from a Year of Foster Parenting
  • The Family Upstairs
  • The Fireman
See similar books…

News & Interviews

  Listen up, because our colleagues here at Goodreads have some excellent audiobook recommendations for you! Of course, the books they've...
13 likes · 10 comments
“But what dominates palliative medicine is not the proximity to death, but the best bits of living. Kindness, courage, love, tenderness – these are the qualities that so often saturate a person’s last days. It can be chaotic, messy, almost violent with grief, but I am surrounded at work by human beings at their most remarkable, unable to retreat from the fact and the ache of our impermanence, yet getting on with living and loving all the same.” 0 likes
More quotes…