By the end, the text has abandoned its disguise as a memoir and revealed its true identity as a rather conventional campaign...

UNTIL DEATH DO US PART

MY STRUGGLE TO RECLAIM COLOMBIA

A courageous Colombian senator, member of a politically active family, charts her course through the dangerous political waters of her troubled country.

Currently running for president of Colombia, Betancourt begins in December 1996, when she had an ominous meeting with an anonymous man who warned that her life was in imminent jeopardy because her aggressive anti-corruption agenda angered the nation’s druglords and their minions. Alarmed, Betancourt hurried home, gathered up her children, and whisked them off to New Zealand to stay with their father, from whom the author separated in 1990. We return to this meeting 180 pages later. In the interim, Betancourt takes us back to her somewhat privileged childhood in France, where her father served as a UNESCO official. Her parents separated when she was 14, but Betancourt admired them both for their rigorous political and personal rectitude. In the summer of 1986, she returned to Colombia to visit her mother, who worked to better the lives of homeless children, and decided to become a legislator. First, Betancourt helped her mother win a senate campaign; soon, she received an appointment in the ministry of education. She was and is horrified by the corruption and apathy in Colombia’s government. Describing a visit to a coastal village repeatedly leveled by storms, she asks, “What kind of democracy is it that lets its people die like this without any choice?” Throughout, Betancourt employs the present tense, which creates an affecting immediacy and compelling urgency. As we follow her triumphs and travails, including a trial on trumped-up ethics charges and a fortunate escape from an assassination attempt, we feel we are alongside her. But she is not always a tolerable companion. Her righteous indignation sometimes devolves into simple self-righteousness, and repeated accounts of her own ethical purity eventually grate rather than ingratiate.

By the end, the text has abandoned its disguise as a memoir and revealed its true identity as a rather conventional campaign autobiography.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-000890-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2001

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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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