"Disease and healing are not just physiological processes. They are spiritual detonations," writes the author, a former editor of New Age Journal, who squared off with thyroid cancer and was spurred on to a study of illness as a spiritual catalyst. He has assembled an enlightening collection of field notes, anecdotes, meditations, and personal accounts of individuals who have grappled with life-threatening illnesses. He adds insights from healers, including Indian medicine men, Tibetan lamas, practitioners of Chinese medicine, and Brazilian psychic healers.

"Healing," notes Barasch, "is in its very essence a process of transformation from illness to wellness, from dysfunction to integration, from breakdown to wholeness." The author has discovered common elements of the healing path in the Biblical story of Job, The Wizard of Oz, A Christmas Carol, and the movie It's a Wonderful Life. Illness with its altered state of being and its own stations of the cross offers individuals a journey to self-discovery.

According to Barasch, dreams "announce the nature, origins, treatment and psychological significance of illness." The healing agenda involves listening to dreams, attending to the messages of the body, acknowledging personal limitations, respecting death, and growing in empathy.

Barasch challenges readers to move beyond conventional Western understandings of medicine, total reliance upon doctors, and the use of heroic medical procedures. There are many dramatic, exciting, and worthwhile alternatives in nontraditional treatment. The soul approach to illness presented here validates the link between inner spiritual work and healing. It also celebrates the meaning-making potential of illness and the importance of finding a way of living that involves self-acceptance and a sense of purpose.