Never was the kitchen a more welcome port in the storm, or more nurturing, than for the buffeted Rossant, who is a...

RETURN TO PARIS

A MEMOIR

In a memoir fully deserving of its moodiness, food writer Rossant (Memoirs of a Lost Egypt, not reviewed) tells of her fitful, melancholy life before she married her husband of 47 years.

Rossant’s mother probably thought of it as freedom, her tendency to drift in and out of her children’s lives, but Rossant experienced it as treachery: all the promises that went begging, being left in the hands of stewards who might or might not have Rossant’s best interests in mind. From a warm childhood among her extended family in Cairo, Rossant was spirited to Paris immediately following WWII, only to wind up in the care of her grandmother, an abrupt and sarcastic woman, after her mother made herself scarce yet again. Having learned in Cairo that the kitchen was a very special place, she was thrilled by her introduction to French food, an omelet aux fines herbs that stole her breath away. And so food steadied her course through the difficulties of her youth, a way in which she could find her footing in uneasy relationships with her family and her boyfriends. Despite the melancholy that pervades the story, there is so much charm in Rossant’s voice—she was baffled when she was 16 that she and her friends were without boyfriends, though “we were actually frumpy, badly dressed, and not a la mode”—that you can smile through the disappointments and drear. And when she finds her focus, it shines: “I discovered that I loved gambling—the rush it gave me. I also liked the olives and slices of saucisson sec they served at the end of the gambling session.” It wasn’t the roulette table that got the last laugh, either. At appropriate moments, Rossant inserts recipes—a friture, a tomato salad, blanquette de veau, raspberry tart—that are little stories in themselves.

Never was the kitchen a more welcome port in the storm, or more nurturing, than for the buffeted Rossant, who is a sympathetic character, and all the more so for her measure of pride. (Photographs)

Pub Date: March 18, 2003

ISBN: 0-7434-3967-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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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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