A painstaking and meticulous exploration of all the facts and conjectures surrounding a disturbing case.

TO THE BRIDGE

A TRUE STORY OF MOTHERHOOD AND MURDER

A deep probe into why a mother murdered her child.

On May 23, 2009, why did Amanda Stott-Smith drop her 4-year-old son, Eldon, and 7-year-old daughter, Trinity, off the middle of a bridge and into the Willamette River more than 90 feet below? (Trinity survived, but Eldon was killed.) That was the nagging question that prompted Rommelmann (Transportation, 2013, etc.) to investigate the years leading up to that moment and the fallout that changed the lives of so many in just a few seconds. The author has thoroughly researched the incident and bolsters her analysis with interviews with friends, family members from both sides of the children’s family, Stott-Smith’s legal counsel, and others, revealing a twisted tale of abuse and victimization, drug dependency, affairs, and revenge. Stott-Smith and her husband, Jason, the father of Eldon and Trinity, did not have an ideal relationship by any means, with physical, emotional, and verbal abuse coming from both sides of the marriage. The children, including Stott-Smith’s older son by a previous relationship, were often caught in the middle of their parents’ arguments and suffered greatly for it. Extended family members meddled in the couple’s business, increasing the animosity on all sides, and Jason’s drug use and control issues added more layers to a complex situation. A friend at the time said that Stott-Smith “lived a classic abused life, more mental than physical…Jason controlled her like a communist….He didn’t want her to go anywhere or do anything. She was a prisoner.” Rommelmann’s presentation of all the details, although at times repetitious and overworked, is also unrelenting, as she builds her case toward an almost empathetic end given the emotional and psychological state Stott-Smith was in at the time of the incident.

A painstaking and meticulous exploration of all the facts and conjectures surrounding a disturbing case.

Pub Date: July 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4842-2

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Little A

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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