Muslims and Christians can live together, Kiser’s poignant narrative asserts, and extremism comes to no good end.

THE MONKS OF TIBHIRINE

FAITH, LOVE, AND TERROR IN ALGERIA

A heart-wrenching tale of French monks slaughtered by Islamic extremists in Algeria.

Not because they were Christians, the author argues early on, but because they refused to leave their Muslim friends. Their murderers didn’t necessarily see it that way, however. The 1996 massacre of the seven monks at the Tibhirine monastery in military-controlled Algeria was part of a radical Islamic wave that killed foreigners of all stripes simply because they weren’t Muslim. Kiser personalizes this tragic episode of recent history. His painstaking characterization of each monk, especially the prior of the monastery, Brother Christian-Marie, makes this an incredibly emotional story. A former officer in the French army who fell in love with Algeria during the country’s war of independence, Brother Christian-Marie raised the eyebrows of other Trappists with his studies of Islam. He was supposed to devote his life to contemplation; instead, he focused on how he might bring his little Christian community closer to the Muslim world surrounding it. Local Muslims loved the monastery in return, viewing the monks as holy men who could be depended upon for food and medical attention. In his debut, technologies broker Kiser builds up the drama leading to the monks’ death with the skill of a novelist. Anti-government rebels who want to purge Algeria of non-Muslim influences visit the monastery but are held off at first by Christian’s combination of piety and brusqueness. As the crisis mounts and other non-Muslims are killed nearby, however, the steadfast monks grow fearful. They band together even more closely and send their youngest member off to France to continue his studies. The reader feels helpless as the kind and harmless brethren await their doom. When the prior and his monks are finally carried away and killed, their pointless deaths illustrate the consequences of vengeful religion.

Muslims and Christians can live together, Kiser’s poignant narrative asserts, and extremism comes to no good end.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-25317-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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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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