Lucidly told with deeply etched personality sketches, thanks to the author’s use of her teenage diary, now in the U.S....

CLARA’S WAR

ONE GIRL’S STORY OF SURVIVAL

Besieged Jews are saved by the most unlikely of heroes in Kramer’s Holocaust memoir.

The author was 12 in 1939, when the Hitler-Stalin Pact divided up Poland and the Soviets marched into her hometown of Zolkiew, near Lvov. Her loving, comfortable family was soon broken up by the brutal NKVD, which arrested her grandfather and all other former Polish officers. He probably died in the chaos following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, which ended the pact and brought even more terrible times to Zolkiew. Abetted by native Poles and Ukrainians, the Wehrmacht, the SS and the Gestapo rousted the town’s Jews from their homes, deported and murdered them. Her desperate father and two neighbors built a crawl space under one of their houses, but then all Jews were ordered to relocate to the ghetto, which they knew meant certain death. Astonishingly, a man named Beck, a Pole who was an ethnic German—as well as a vocal anti-Semite, an adulterer and a drunk—agreed to help them. He requested the home with the crawl space (the Nazis allotted fellow Aryans the property of displaced Jews), spread a rumor that they had fled and hid the beset, disoriented families beneath the floor of the little house. Cramped and crowded, the grimy bunker was just four-feet high until someone dug a hole in which to stand erect. Among the rules—no talking, no complaining. In their burrow, they could hear boots, gunfire, shouted orders and last cries. They heard the trainmen and German soldiers billeted in the rooms above them. Throughout all this, Beck, often with a bottle in his hand, was constant and kind, providing food and protection for a year and a half. Kramer’s sister did not survive. Neither did 99 out of every 100 Jews in Zolkiew. But this surprisingly honorable, truly righteous man saved Kramer and 17 others. The number 18, it should be noted, signifies “life” in the Jewish tradition.

Lucidly told with deeply etched personality sketches, thanks to the author’s use of her teenage diary, now in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Pub Date: April 21, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-172860-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2009

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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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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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