A poignantly provocative memoir.


In his first book, a 20-something recounts his battles with caring for a mother fighting cancer and a father with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

As a young professional newly graduated from college, Utah native Marshall was on top of the world. Not only did he and his siblings come from wealth and live with “the proverbial silver spoon jammed firmly up our asses”; he also had a job and girlfriend he loved in Los Angeles, a city he enjoyed for its “traffic and pollution and assholes speeding around in BMWs.” The one shadow on his good fortune was having a mother sick with cancer. But even that difficulty was one Marshall and his family had overcome thanks to his father, a man who had held chaos at bay with his unflagging devotion to them all. Then one day, Marshall learned that his father had been diagnosed with ALS, a disease that was “a real ugly motherfucker and…pretty much a death sentence.” At first, the family tried to carry on their lives as though nothing had changed. However, less than a year after the diagnosis, Marshall’s siblings told him that he needed to come home to help care for both parents. It was then he realized that “life [wasn’t] all about gin and tonics and sunsets.” For the next year, Marshall watched as his once healthy and active father declined into near total helplessness and his traumatized mother reeled from chemotherapy and drugs that addled her brain. Relationships between him, his siblings, and his friends strained to the breaking point. Marshall then had to face his own personal losses, which included the end of a long-term relationship he believed would culminate in marriage. Though the author’s potty-mouthed profanity can be trying, the book is funny, heartbreaking, and unapologetically crude. Strangely enough, as Marshall is forced into awareness of life’s harsher realities and grows up, his linguistic coarseness gives way to a narrative that manages to be quite touching.

A poignantly provocative memoir.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-06882-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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


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...


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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