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STUMBLING TOWARD VICTORY

LIVING IN DEFIANCE OF PARKINSON'S DISEASE

A plainspoken account that will appeal to anyone who’s interested in the experience of living with Parkinson’s disease.

King (Walking the Crooked Path, 2014) blends pragmatic realism, Christian faith, and an irrepressible sense of humor in his second motivational memoir.

Parkinson’s disease is an incurable affliction of the central nervous system that affects movement, often causing tremors, among other symptoms, and King’s memoir offers a look into the everyday life of someone who suffers from it. In a series of short essays, the author, who was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s at 47, shares stories that show how his outlook has evolved due to his day-to-day experience of living with his disease. He writes that his life often feels like an ongoing battle to maintain simple pleasures for as long as he can: “With God’s help and the support of family and friends, I intend to live in defiance of Parkinson’s disease,” he writes. “It can’t have me; I claim victory.” He often tries to find a balance between being cautious and not giving things up too early; he tells of arguing with his wife over whether he should still be driving a car, for example. He also relates that his inability to pursue certain hobbies, such as scuba diving and skiing, have sometimes contributed to a sense of losing his independence. Overall, King’s tone is conversational and realistic, but he’s also optimistic and often cracks jokes. In this regard, the book may be particularly valuable to Parkinson’s sufferers and readers who know them, although others will find it to be informative as well. Readers may wish that some of the chapters were longer and that they were fleshed out with a little more detail and structure. The good-natured humor, though, sometimes makes up for this lack of a clear narrative arc.

A plainspoken account that will appeal to anyone who’s interested in the experience of living with Parkinson’s disease.

Pub Date: May 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5329-7157-0

Page Count: 108

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2017

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MASTERY

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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BRAVE ENOUGH

These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

A lightweight collection of self-help snippets from the bestselling author.

What makes a quote a quote? Does it have to be quoted by someone other than the original author? Apparently not, if we take Strayed’s collection of truisms as an example. The well-known memoirist (Wild), novelist (Torch), and radio-show host (“Dear Sugar”) pulls lines from her previous pages and delivers them one at a time in this small, gift-sized book. No excerpt exceeds one page in length, and some are only one line long. Strayed doesn’t reference the books she’s drawing from, so the quotes stand without context and are strung together without apparent attention to structure or narrative flow. Thus, we move back and forth from first-person tales from the Pacific Crest Trail to conversational tidbits to meditations on grief. Some are astoundingly simple, such as Strayed’s declaration that “Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard.” Others call on the author’s unique observations—people who regret what they haven’t done, she writes, end up “mingy, addled, shrink-wrapped versions” of themselves—and offer a reward for wading through obvious advice like “Trust your gut.” Other quotes sound familiar—not necessarily because you’ve read Strayed’s other work, but likely due to the influence of other authors on her writing. When she writes about blooming into your own authenticity, for instance, one is immediately reminded of Anaïs Nin: "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Strayed’s true blossoming happens in her longer works; while this collection might brighten someone’s day—and is sure to sell plenty of copies during the holidays—it’s no substitute for the real thing.

These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-946909

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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