PERPETUA'S PASSION

THE DEATH AND MEMORY OF A YOUNG ROMAN WOMAN

An insightful, moving account of the death of an early-third- century Christian martyr, based on her own diary. Vibia Perpetua was the daughter of an old respected Roman family of Carthage and, although raised in accordance with the pagan religious traditions of Rome, converted to Christianity, one of many faiths competing for devotees in the Roman Empire. Just 22 years old, she was arrested with several other converts to Christianity and, because she refused to acknowledge the divinity of the emperor Septimus Severus (and even though she was the mother of an infant), was sentenced to be killed by beasts in the Carthaginian arena. Salisbury (Medieval History and Humanities/Univ. of Wisconsin, Green Bay) uses the text of Perpetua's diary, written in prison, to explore this extraordinary young woman's decision to renounce her prosperous life and embrace a horrible death, and to depict in vivid and fascinating detail the world of pagan Rome and the insular community of the early Church, with its emphasis on prophecy and speaking in tongues. Salisbury notes the contrast between the Roman religion, with its thousands of household gods, and monotheistic/trinitarian Christianity with its claim to be the only universally true religion. Also, the patriarchy of traditional Roman society, which restricted women to the roles of wife and mother, stood in stark contrast with the egalitarian promise of Christianity, which taught that all persons were equal before God and often gave women a leading role. Using Perpetua's text, Salisbury shows that, despite the dangers, the young woman turned her back on her affectionate family and infant son to become a Christian because of her profound conviction that she was experiencing the presence of God. A uniquely absorbing and poignant study of the vanished world of the early martyrs. (11 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 1997

ISBN: 0-415-91837-5

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Routledge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 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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