“A remarkable memoir . . . Even in summary, it’s a compelling story, but it’s Downing’s intelligence, his bone-dry wit, his carefully measured sorrow, carefully controlled rage, and beautifully wrought prose that make this memoir such a standout. His writing has the cerebral precision and focus of Joan Didion’s, but it’s got other kinds of fullness and heart too. Downing describes a series of harrowing journeys through a preeminent Boston hospital, in which a less vigilant patient than himself would surely have fared less well – never mind what would have become of someone uninsured or completely uninformed . . . Yet it isn’t social commentary or critique that makes Life with Sudden Death so memorable. It’s the unsentimental way Downing writes about wonder, gratitude, love, art, and even religion.  It’s passages like this: ‘My mother and I both lived long enough to understand that we had loved other people better and had been better loved by others, too. What we had was the singular authority to say, I know you.’ And lines like this: ‘If you are about to die, I have a hotel to recommend with wrought-iron balconies hanging above the Arno and coffee service from friendly guys in tuxedos. Compared with the hospital, they’re giving the rooms away.’”

Elizabeth Benedict, Huffington Post

“Effective immediately, I am making Life with Sudden Death required reading each year for our trainees . . . it will make them better doctors.”

William H. Maisel, MD, MPH, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston

“Recommended Reading . .  Full of closely observed details”

San Francisco Chronicle

“Don’t you love discovering a new-to-you author who has already written numerous books that you now can’t wait to read? Michael Downing is that kind of revelation to me. This memoir, about finding out that he has a genetic disposition to sudden early death from heart failure, is teeming with insight, observation, and keenly intelligent thought. Plus: the guy can write the pants off most memoirists . . . it delivers far more than you thought possible.”

Christie @


To read a pre-publication interview with Michael about his memoir, click here.