A thoughtful, multithemed autobiography focused on the challenges of motherhood, with particular insight into health care...

Impossible Choices

A MOTHER'S STRUGGLE TO SAVE HER DAUGHTERS

In this memoir, a former aspiring actress chronicles her transformative journey dealing with a daughter’s brain tumor and a later-in-life foreign adoption.

In 1972, depressed and financially dependent on a husband she was in the process of divorcing, Goodman, then 35, was told that her 5-year-old daughter, Julie, had a brain tumor and likely only six months to live. Julie underwent brain surgery and radiation treatment, then chemotherapy, leaving her neurologically disabled. Defying doctors, Goodman tried patterning, a controversial therapy of manipulating body parts to stimulate motor development. She recruited volunteers to help perform this work in her New York City apartment, and Julie lived, with some improvement, for another 20 years. Goodman also realized she was gay; she had one long-term lesbian relationship and eventually abandoned her “frivolous dream of being an actress” for a new career as a hospital counselor. In her 50s, Goodman, once again single, adopted Cache, a 3-year-old girl from Guatemala, who ended up having behavioral issues due to early childhood abuse and, later, sexual trauma as an 11-year-old. Goodman sprang into action, sending Cache to wilderness camp and boarding school. While Goodman remains unsure of these decisions, Cache, whose writings are excerpted in this narrative, is now back home and exploring a makeup artist career. In her often heartbreaking account, Goodman makes note of the cantor’s reference at Julie’s funeral to the Jewish legend about “a mother who did everything possible to keep her child alive.” Goodman is indeed living proof of such dedication, an example to parents everywhere to stay engaged in their children’s care. Though at times digressive with extraneous personal detail, Goodman is also refreshingly honest about the hardships in her life. “I…was always amazed that there was more screaming left,” she says about her primal scream therapy. Among her range of experiences—Julie, Cache, her sexual identity—each episode could be the subject of a more finely tuned memoir. This impressive individual, however, has certainly earned the right to tell her story in its totality.

A thoughtful, multithemed autobiography focused on the challenges of motherhood, with particular insight into health care advocacy.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-1494294441

Page Count: 208

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 11, 2014

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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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