A cleareyed, moving portrait of Alzheimer’s and the family ties that transcend it.


Come Live With Me


In this luminous debut memoir, a woman struggles to care for her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother, experiencing exhaustion, heartache, moments of joy, and a renewed connection to her loved ones.

Kincaid, an only child who never married, spent a decade caring for her mother, Dixie Garrett Kincaid, after she began suffering from dementia, eventually taking her into her own Arlington, Virginia, home. As the disease progressed from forgetfulness to eccentricity to losses of reason, self-control, and language, the author found herself becoming a parent to her mother, whom she often characterizes as being as helpless and demanding as an infant yet big and mobile enough to cause chaos. Kincaid is unsparing about the realities of Alzheimer’s care, describing her mother’s hygiene problems and violent outbursts; her sometimes-charming, sometimes-infuriating habit of hiding clothes and household objects; and her recurrent medical emergencies, exacerbated by her inability to explain what was wrong. The author also describes her own sleep deprivation and her feelings of intense guilt when she had to deposit her mother in respite care to let herself recuperate. She cogently criticizes the nationwide Alzheimer’s-care network for its frequent lapses and callousness, castigates doctors for making cavalier treatment decisions without considering her mother’s circumstances, and accuses a nursing facility of making false medical claims to justify sending her mother back to the hospital. The author’s wrangles with HMO doctors to get treatment for her own serious ailments, including breast cancer, constitute an appalling health care horror story of its own. But there are also rewards here: her mother’s once-difficult temperament improves as she experiences happiness, satisfaction, and episodes of clarity, and Kincaid’s caregiving results in a deeper familial bond. The author sets the story of her care against descriptions of her fraught relationship with her mother before her decline and of the strong, inspirational women in her extended family. In vivid, graceful prose, she offers an honest account of the burdens of Alzheimer’s patients without losing sight of their importance in the lives of those who care for them.

A cleareyed, moving portrait of Alzheimer’s and the family ties that transcend it.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5176-1343-3

Page Count: 294

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.


A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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