Book Review: Chasing Hope
A Patient’s Deep Dive into Stem Cells, Faith, and the Future
WHEN PANDORA OPENED her infamous box, all the evil spirits escaped into the world. But the last spirit to leave the box was Elpis, the goddess of hope. She was sent as a gift to comfort humanity.
When the award-winning journalist and author Richard M. Cohen shares this tale in his latest book, Chasing Hope, it comes off as slightly ironic. Given that Cohen has lived with multiple sclerosis for four decades, has survived two bouts of colon cancer and a near-fatal blood clot, and is legally blind, his hopes for wellness have been dashed time and time again.
But comfort is not the point of Cohen’s investigation into the nature of hope, and into himself. As Cohen chronicles the progression of his own illness, along with his encounters with various teachers of hope, what results is a clear-eyed look at the way hope rises, abates, and often shape-shifts as other emotions. With acerbic wit and clear affection for his three children and his wife, Meredith Vieira, Cohen explores how hope is tied up with love, anger, and shame.
For instance: “Anger and hope are improbable plate mates. They are never served in equal proportions or at the same temperatures. They do not mix well. Anger can be quite spicy; hope, bland. . . . Maybe hope is a glass of warm milk—drink it before bed and sleep well.”
Cohen’s story is a true roller coaster, and readers will feel hope swell as he describes various medical procedures, including a cutting-edge trial for stem cell research and the resulting relationship with a top-notch doctor. By lending a journalist’s jaundiced eye to hope, Cohen takes the mystique out of this seemingly abstract concept, revealing how hope functions as a powerful tool linked to our very survival. For Cohen, hope isn’t a comfort. It’s a deeply held conviction