Walking The Crooked Path

Using clever commentary and realistic reassurance, King’s comforting memoir details his struggle with early-onset Parkinson’s disease.
Squirming in a doctor’s chair, convinced nothing is wrong with him, King sees the problem arrive in a storm of immediacy and doubt. His doctor informs him that, due to symptoms of aching, stiffness and limping, he is likely in the beginning stages of early-onset Parkinson’s disease. Stubborn and opinionated, King is almost insulted by the diagnosis. He desperately attempts to reason with his doctor: “[B]ut I’m too young for Parkinson’s….[I]t’s only on one side,” he says. “I don’t shake all that much.” As the memoir continues, readers are exposed to the idiosyncrasies, past and present, that have built his distinctive outer toughness and inner insecurity. King the author develops a strong portrait of King the protagonist, testing his strength of character against the traumas of a strenuous, sometimes-impossible coping process. The details of his childhood, military career and marriage portray a complex array of emotions that move the reader through the distress of Parkinson’s and the effect it has on his life. Despite the subject matter, however, the outlook isn’t bleak. The author balances the strife of deterioration, both mental and physical, with sharp wit and dry sarcasm: “ ‘executive dysfunction’…it sounds like a bad quote from a Dilbert cartoon, it’s related to the ability to multitask, to think abstractly, to remember and apply facts, and to interpret motivations and read situations effectively.” This harmonious balance gives the narrative an ultimately positive outlook, lightening the intense subject matter. The memoir outlines the achievements and disappointments of the coping process, assuring readers that no process works the same for everyone and that the ultimate medicines are love and support from one’s family. The text can be repetitive in parts, and certain digressions into back story—particularly the sections about his time in the military—slow the narrative’s momentum. Yet as a whole, King’s story is humbling and inspiring, sparkling with honesty, humor and faith.
An engrossing, informative read for anyone intrigued by the concept of finding peace and happiness while in the grips of terminal illness.

Pub Date: April 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500228422

Page Count: 110

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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