THE LASSA WARD

ONE MAN’S FIGHT AGAINST ONE OF THE WORLD’S DEADLIEST DISEASES

Intrepid medical-school student confronts a deadly virus decimating West Africa.

During his second year of medical school, Donaldson became intrigued by the deadly Lassa fever, a rat-borne hemorraghic virus closely related to the Ebola and Marburg varieties that, left untreated, virtually liquefies the body’s internal organs. Convinced he could help ease the suffering, he spent the summer of 2003 in civil-war–torn Sierra Leone, where Lassa was reaching epidemic proportions. The trip, Donaldson admits, while initially an exhilarating “mix of danger and adventure,” soon became an all-encompassing endeavor that he came close to regretting several times. After a tour of the poverty-stricken environs, the author apprenticed under renowned Lassa expert Dr. Conteh, who was in charge of the Lassa ward in the town of Kenema. A desperate fight to save a female villager from cerebral malaria would pale in comparison to Donaldson’s months of frenzied work in the 20-bed facility, especially after Conteh departed for a week to oversee a program of health-care training, leaving the author in charge of the ward. Though overwhelmed and unprepared to make some of “the most critical decisions of [his] life,” Donaldson and his bare-bones medical staff trudged on, diagnosing, curing and sometimes burying contagious villagers as lines continued to form outside his door. Near the end of his time in West Africa, Donaldson faced an extremely tough personal challenge as well—a diagnosis of myocarditis, a crippling, life-threatening autoimmune disease. Passionate humanitarianism permeates the author’s memoir. In a heartfelt epilogue, he compassionately acknowledges that the work he performed in West Africa is integral to the way he practices medicine today.

A rewarding memoir.

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-37700-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2009

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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