Caregivers may find solace in Sykes’ poignant memories.

Tapestry of Love

CARING FOR AN ELDERLY PARENT

Sykes’ debut memoir tells of the seven years she spent caring for her ailing, elderly mother.

The author was catapulted into the role of caregiver when her vibrant mother suffered macular degeneration, which eventually led to blindness. Sykes’ role became even more difficult when her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, her mother had to cope with permanently leaving her sister in Florida—as well as the independence of her own condo—to live in much smaller institutional spaces near Sykes’ Massachusetts home. As the author became an advocate for her mother’s care, the two lost the carefree mother-daughter relationship they once had. Still, Sykes was determined to enjoy some aspects of their changing roles, and she ultimately learned to feel privileged to be her mother’s caregiver. There are some horror stories here; in one facility, for example, the author’s mother was physically and emotionally abused. However, Sykes also offers many uplifting moments; on her mother’s 90th birthday, for example, she was able to hold her first great-grandchild. Later, Sykes fulfills her mother’s dying request for a day at the beach, resulting in a beautiful mother-daughter memory. Readers shouldn’t expect a step-by-step elder-care guide or in-depth discussions of legal terms in this gentle narrative. However, there are some useful bits of information about nursing-home residents, such as their need for structured routine; for example, when Sykes hired companions to alleviate her mother’s loneliness, it turned out to be too stressful to have so many new people coming and going. Sykes also offers some worthwhile questions to ask when considering an elder-care facility, such as whether the institution has a physical therapy room and therapists on staff. The book also contains an exhaustive list of quotes and affirmations, including these words that Sykes spoke to her mother: “You have spent a lifetime giving to others. This is the time in your life to celebrate receiving from others.

Caregivers may find solace in Sykes’ poignant memories.

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1494224486

Page Count: 184

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2014

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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