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Book Review :: Cost of Living by Emily Maloney

Cost of Living, essays by Emily Maloney published by Henry Holt and Co. book cover image

Guest Post by Jackie Martin

Emily Maloney’s memoir, Cost of Living, is an exploration of “an expense that’s hard to bear.” In the sixteen essays that make up the collection, Maloney introduces readers to a roster of memorable characters and generously shares stories that explain – but never excuse – the financial and metaphorical costs of the American healthcare system. Maloney employs a surgeon’s precision to cut into the business of health, revealing unethical prescribing, inequitable resources, medical sexism, inadequate mental health care, and other malignancies that hide beneath the surface. Her insights come from time spent as a patient as well as an employee: her background includes such varied work as an emergency room tech “expected to guard against the depletion of resources,” an EMT trainee who learned “it was never about the patients themselves,” and a “medical publications manager” who was tasked with schmoozing doctors at conferences. Though Maloney’s essays inspire a multitude of reactions from melancholy to righteous anger to utter disbelief, her writing is never preachy or overwrought. Her personal stories serve the greater narrative, reminding us that there are real people behind the bloated price tag of even simple curative procedures. With an artful, sardonic humor and a refreshingly straightforward perspective, Maloney stitches medical facts together with personal experience and observation to investigate the “enormous cost” of trying to stay healthy in America today.

Cost of Living by Emily Maloney. Henry Holt and Co., February 2022.

Reviewer bio: Jackie Martin is a writer and teacher from the Boston area. Her stage plays have been produced around the U.S. and published by Heuer, Applause, and others. She is currently pursuing her MA in English at Bridgewater State University.