SQUEAKY

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF LYNETTE ALICE FROMME--RUNAWAY

This biography of Lynette ``Squeaky'' Fromme—would-be assassin of President Ford—leaves large portions of her life unexplored, focusing in full only on her years in the Manson Family and her attempt to shoot the president. Among Fromme's many associates interviewed by former New York Times reporter Bravin is Phil Hartman, a high school acquaintance of Fromme's who later became famous on NBC's Saturday Night Live. His recollections of Fromme are bittersweet and provide some of the more compelling material here. However, large lapses remain, not the least of which is the suggestion, never resolved, of incest involving Fromme and her authoritarian father. And Bravin glosses over the two decades since Fromme's conviction in a mere ten pages. Perhaps there are so many loose ends here because Fromme would not agree to be interviewed. She might have, had she known that she would receive such delicate treatment from Bravin. While he pulls no punches concerning Fromme's devotion to Charles Manson, her political views concerning the environment, which she used as an excuse for her crime, are presented virtually unedited, no doubt thanks to Bravin's thorough study of the court transcripts and Fromme's own writings. Bravin seems to want his readers to conclude that Fromme had a good cause, after all. The problem is that she stated her cause—that we are killing ourselves by killing our environment—by saying, in essence, ``Stop killing yourself slowly, or I will kill you quickly.'' Bravin tries hard to make her somewhat sympathetic, but ultimately the reader concludes that Fromme is where she belongs—serving out a life sentence in prison in Marianna, Fla. Bravin's research on the crucial years is admirable, but his final product is incomplete and only intermittently interesting. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) (First serial to Buzz magazine; author tour)

Pub Date: June 19, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-15663-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1997

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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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