Williams delivers a complex tale about a complex disease, and by sharing a narrative rich in detail, personalities, and New...

A SERIES OF CATASTROPHES AND MIRACLES

A TRUE STORY OF LOVE, SCIENCE, AND CANCER

Who would have thought a book about being diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma could be exhilarating and entertaining?

Salon.com senior staff writer Williams (Gimme Shelter, 2009) describes going to her dermatologist to check out a scab on her scalp. A biopsy indicated malignant melanoma that required immediate surgery that would leave a permanent bald spot. But it would also begin a lifesaving relationship with Memorial Sloan Kettering doctors. The spoiler at the beginning assures readers that instead of the usual monthslong life expectancy for stage 4 melanoma patients, the author is currently cancer free, even after her disease had progressed to metastases affecting her lungs and a spot on her back. Married and in her 40s with two daughters when she was diagnosed in 2010, Williams experienced all the anxiety, fear, anger, and sadness that come with such a diagnosis, but the writing never sinks to weepiness. The author was buoyed by a strong personality and a supporting cast of family and friends, including one whose ovarian cancer serves as a powerful subtext that cancers often kill. What saved Williams was experimental immunological therapy. She entered a phase 1 clinical trial using a combination of drugs designed to thwart the ability of cancer cells to inhibit the body’s immune system from attacking those cells. Usually these trials are conducted to check drug toxicity and dosages. In this case, the drugs helped so many patients that trials for other cancers are now in progress, giving a boost to immunotherapy research in general. The author explains it all: the science, the scans, the constant blood draws, the side effects, the stigma, the guilt of getting sick, the guilt of getting better, the effects on others, including the friends who stop calling you, as well as the support groups she found so helpful.

Williams delivers a complex tale about a complex disease, and by sharing a narrative rich in detail, personalities, and New York scenes, she will ease the burdens of those immediately affected and inform others of progress in cancer research.

Pub Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4262-1633-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

more