Closing the Last Chapter

With unsentimental passion and chilling clarity, a surgeon reflects movingly on life's final mystery: death

It is the "undiscover'd country," as Hamlet put it. It may be life's last mystery, the only truly private realm, since sex today is practically a spectator sport. What are the contours of this frightening place? What does it look like, feel like? How does it sound? These are questions that Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland seeks to answer in How We Die (Knopf; 278 pages; $24), a series of eloquent and uncommonly moving reflections on what his subtitle calls "life's final chapter."

Thousands of tomes have been composed about death, but few of them, the author notes, are by those who...

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