While on assignment in China, journalist Amanda Bennett met and fell in love with a complicated man. They married, moved back to the U.S., created a family, and had their reality turned on its ear when her husband, Terence Foley, was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He lived for several years before the cancer metastasized and claimed his life. Throughout his illness, Bennett’s health insurance covered virtually all related expenses. It wasn’t until after his death that she realized the costs came to over half a million dollars, and she began to question where the money went. What exactly is The Cost of Hope?

Bennett’s book is both a memoir of a marriage and a sharp piece of investigative journalism. Physicians disagreed not only about the type of cancer Foley had, but also about his treatment. At one point Bennett asks, “So what’s the box score on the tumor?” and runs down a list including six pathologists, four oncologists and “at least” four hospitals. “The outcome? Nearly four years after his death, I still don’t know what kind of cancer Terence had. Everyone is convinced he is right.”

Bennett finds that different hospitals charge different amounts for the same procedure. She points out that if the cost were spelled out along with the purpose of the procedure, patients might not be so quick to sign off on invasive tests. Bennett doesn’t harbor regrets about trying to prolong her husband’s life; with The Cost of Hope she has not only memorialized him artfully, but turned his experience into a probing look at modern medicine and the choices it forces upon us.

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