In Through Divided Minds (1988), N.Y.C. psychologist Mayer reported warmly on his work with sufferers of multiple personality disorder (MPD); here, he writes an equally compassionate account of his treatment of multiples possibly created by satanic cults. Cheesy chapter titles—``Education in Evil,'' ``The Slasher,'' ``The She-Satan,'' etc.—belie Mayer's humane approach to his hot-potato subject, which first surfaced in his life a few years back when, under hypnosis, a young MPD patient screamed, ``Don't kill the baby! Please! Don't kill the baby!''—and went on to describe how as a tyke he had been forced to do just that during a satanic rite. After a second multiple, Rebecca, told a similar story, Mayer realized that he had to ``change [his] thinking. To take a harsher view of the world and human understand evil''—which led him to in-depth research on Satanism, well summarized here, as is his later attendance at a conference on MPD that concluded with a poll being ``taken of how many in the audience were treating patients who said they had been ritually abused''—of the 200 or so therapists, ``almost everyone raised his hand.'' And further cases came Mayer's way- -including that of Randall, an anorexic/ bulemic multiple apparently forced to serve a satanic cult by her father, and of Colleen, a professional masochist with perhaps more than 1,000 personalities. Interweaving his account of these cases and the engaging story of his own troubled life—career switches, a difficult divorce—Mayer emphasizes that, for him, the bottom line is not so much whether satanic child abuse exists on a wide scale—he weighs the evidence pro and con without drawing definite conclusions—but how to ``listen to my patients and help them any way I can.'' Once again, Mayer proves a wise and charming guide through some of the darkest corners of the human mind—and a temperate explorer of an ultrasensational phenomenon.

Pub Date: May 31, 1991

ISBN: 0-399-13627-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1991

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


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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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.


A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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