Tuesday, October 25, 2016

G757 Book Review of sensing light by Mark A Jacobson

Name of Book: Sensing Light

Author: Mark A Jacobson

ISBN: 978-1-61243-570-1

Publisher: Ulysses Press

Type of book: AIDS/HIV, discovery, 1979-1991, death, family, friendship, doctor, medical life, San Francisco, homosexuality, life, quality time, surviving, patients, quality of life

Year it was published: 2016




This breakout book by Mark A. Jacobson, a leading Bay Area HIV/AIDS physician, follows three people from vastly different backgrounds, who are thrown together by a shared urgency to find out what is killing so many men in the prime of their lives. Kevin, a gay medical resident from working class Boston, has moved to San Francisco in search of acceptance of his sexual identity. Herb, a middle-aged supervising physician at one of the nation’s toughest hospitals, struggles with his own emotional rigidity. And Gwen, a divorced mother raising a teen daughter, is seeking a sense of self and security while endeavoring to complete her medical training. Mark A. Jacobson, a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco and attending physician at San Francisco General Hospital, began his internship in 1981, just days after the CDC first reported a mysterious, fatal disease affecting gay men.


There are three primary characters in the book: that of Kevin, Gwen and Herb. There are other secondary characters such as Herb's son, Gwen's daughter and lover and Kevin's lover who also played big roles. Kevin is a young and talented gay doctor who left Boston and came over to San Francisco to discover himself. He is extremely dedicated be it to work or to his lover and he also happens to be ethical when it comes to medicine. Gwen is a young divorced woman with a daughter who makes a choice to work for a hospital and she befriends Kevin and Herb. She is smart, resourceful and extremely driven to success. Herb is a Chinese-American male who is dedicated to his work and has a rocky relationship with his family. He is also driven, calm and very collected as well as filled with errors despite his 'perfect' exterior.


Behind every discovery there are humans


The story is in third person narrative from Kevin's, Herb's and Gwen's points of views. Once in a while other characters will tell of their points of view, but those times are far and few in between. The story begins in 1979, when a man visits the hospital to figure out what is going on with him and he ends up on life support and dies, with doctors and others clueless about what happened to him and not being able to put the pieces together, and it continues from 1979 up until 1991, each lengthy section taking place every few years and presenting the reader facts that are found out. This is also a medical novel, but medicine and life in medicine is interwoven so anyone can understand them and its not filled with technical jargon. In particular, the book is very heavy on emotions and I recall feeling fear and uncertainty of what was going on with the first few patients and was filled with awe at the doctors and researchers that dared to solve the puzzle of HIV/AIDS.

Author Information:
(From the book)

Mark A Jacobson, a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco and attending physician at San Francisco General Hospital, began his internship in 1981, just days after the CDC first reported a mysterious, fatal disease affecting gay men


When this is described as historical fiction, I feel shocked because I was born in 1985, six years after HIV was discovered, and since I don't feel old, its kind of a difficult label to grasp for something that takes place around the time of one's birth. I honestly am at a loss for words on describing the beauty of this novel.In an odd way it reminded me of Losing Touch, which I've reviewed few years ago that is about a progressive disease of one man and the impact it has on his family. In that book, the author visits the family every few years, but it was done in such a way that it's as if one is always apprised of their goings-on and the reader never feels as if he is missing out. This story is built in the same way, starting in 1979 when first gay men walk into a hospital with mysterious illness, and every few years as more and more information becomes available about HIV/AIDS we keep revisiting the characters and what they have done since last we saw them. It's an incredibly touching and sad novel with very human characters and it will keep one reading through day and night as the history of HIV/AIDS gets revisited for those too young to know of the beginning of epidemic.

This is for Poetic Book Tours

5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)


  1. Thanks for being on the blog tour. I'm so glad that this book was engaging for you. I completely agree. How is this historical. It's set just 2 years after I was born.

  2. Awesome, a 5 out 5 book! I haven't read one of those in a while.
    So this is the book you mention in my blog! Omg, it sounds powerful and important. I would LOVE to read it. Thanks for the recommendation.


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