A movingly candid memoir about finding some measure of hope in “the poorest country in the western hemisphere.”

A GIRL NAMED LOVELY

ONE CHILD'S MIRACULOUS SURVIVAL AND MY JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF HAITI

An award-winning Canadian journalist tells the story of her experiences in post-earthquake Haiti and of the special relationship she forged with a young survivor and her family.

In January 2010, the Toronto Star sent Porter (now the Canada bureau chief for the New York Times) to cover the Haitian earthquake as a foreign correspondent. Stories of human suffering “were on every street corner, each one more compelling and alarming than the next,” but the one that captivated her the most was that of a 2-year-old girl named Lovely, who had been pulled from the rubble, nearly unharmed, six days after the earthquake. The author first encountered the child at an emergency makeshift clinic in Port-au-Prince. Impressed by the girl’s preternatural toughness, the author searched for—and miraculously found—the child on a subsequent trip to Haiti. Awed that the girl had managed to stay alive “many days longer than was medically possible,” Porter decided to write about Lovely. Breaking “the cardinal rule of journalism,” she also became directly involved in the girl’s life, paying for her education and giving money to help her parents get on their feet. The author also eventually donated money gathered from her Canadian readers to fund a school. Her efforts met with mixed results: Lovely thrived scholastically, but her father failed to make a go of his motorcycle taxi business, and they constantly struggled with their finances. The school Porter funded succeeded, but money mysteriously went missing from its accounts. Yet in the end, the author had no regrets. As messy and complicated as her relationship to Haiti had become, she also realized that her life and the lives of her family members had become immeasurably enriched through that connection. Powerful and searching, Porter’s book offers an unforgettable account of how one woman’s humanitarian gestures not only changed her, but also made a difference in the lives of people living in unimaginable misery.

A movingly candid memoir about finding some measure of hope in “the poorest country in the western hemisphere.”

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6809-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier...

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

  • National Book Award Winner

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING

A moving record of Didion’s effort to survive the death of her husband and the near-fatal illness of her only daughter.

In late December 2003, Didion (Where I Was From, 2003, etc.) saw her daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia, the lingering effects of which would threaten the young woman’s life for several months to come. As her daughter struggled in a New York ICU, Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne, suffered a massive heart attack and died on the night of December 30, 2003. For 40 years, Didion and Dunne shared their lives and work in a marriage of remarkable intimacy and endurance. In the wake of Dunne’s death, Didion found herself unable to accept her loss. By “magical thinking,” Didion refers to the ruses of self-deception through which the bereaved seek to shield themselves from grief—being unwilling, for example, to donate a dead husband’s clothes because of the tacit awareness that it would mean acknowledging his final departure. As a poignant and ultimately doomed effort to deny reality through fiction, that magical thinking has much in common with the delusions Didion has chronicled in her several previous collections of essays. But perhaps because it is a work of such intense personal emotion, this memoir lacks the mordant bite of her earlier work. In the classics Slouching Toward Bethlehem (1968) and The White Album (1979), Didion linked her personal anxieties to her withering dissection of a misguided culture prey to its own self-gratifying fantasies. This latest work concentrates almost entirely on the author’s personal suffering and confusion—even her husband and daughter make but fleeting appearances—without connecting them to the larger public delusions that have been her special terrain.

A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4314-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

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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