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Heart Book Print E-mail

The Sanctuary of Illness: A Memoir of Heart Disease

2014 Indiefab Finalist: Autobiography & Memoir

We all know someone who has suffered a heart attack, but how often do we learn intimate details that might help us deal with coronary artery disease before it strikes? In The Sanctuary of Illness, Thomas Larson tells a powerful and personal story of what happens when our arteries fail us. He narrates the dramatic tale of his three heart attacks in five years. Slowly waking up to the genetic legacy and dangerous diet of his past, he discovers a path to healing that his partner, Suzanna, insists he—and she—put into action. Told with urgency and sensitivity, The Sanctuary of Illness reminds us that heart disease seldom affects just one heart.




“Written in the tradition of Sherwin Nuland and Anatole Broyard, Thomas Larson’s The Sanctuary of Illness is both a meditation on mortality and a call to arms in the face of the inevitable. By turns defiant, humorous, earthy, and literary, the work is a felicitous mix of memoir and reporting: the heart as a pulsing source of both truth and fact.”

     —Madeleine Blais, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist

“Thomas Larson has written a sumptuous and insightful personal chronicling of the pathway into and away from coronary artery disease.”

     —Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease

“In the realm of fear and suffering and grief there must be poetry, and Larson finds it again and again in this memoir. His clarity, his humility, and his grace are profoundly moving.”

     —Richard Hoffman, Half the House

“This powerful book conveys one man’s struggle fighting heart disease. Thomas Larson describes multiple heart attacks, interventions, and his decision to try to change his fate with a plant-based diet. His example and dramatic rebound are truly inspiring.”

     —Neal Barnard, M.D.