In this age of shortened office visits, doctors take care of their patients’ immediate needs and often elide their own personal histories. But as reflected in Broke, Michael Stein takes the time to listen to the experiences of his patients whose financial challenges complicate every decision in life they make. Stein asks his patients to tell him about their financial conditions not only to find out how to better treat them but also to bear witness to their very survival and the power of human resilience. Stein’s intimate vignettes capture these encounters, allowing his patients to offer profound, moving, and unguarded reflections about their struggles, sometimes in a single sentence.
Broke is a quietly passionate critique of a country that has grown callous to the plight of the poor, the tens of millions of people in the United States who live below the poverty line and who have no obvious path to security. Full of heartbreaking and surprising details and framed by a wry, knowing, and empathic humor, there is no other book that illuminates the experience of people facing economic hardship in this way.