As this thick book jumps back and forth between the two families, Maier sometimes strains to link all the words and deeds,...

WHEN LIONS ROAR

THE CHURCHILLS AND THE KENNEDYS

Journalist Maier (Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love, 2009, etc.) pieces together a multigenerational saga of two renowned families.

Writing a biography of an individual can become beset with difficulties. Writing a multicharacter history of both the Churchills and the Kennedys, covering primarily the 1930s through the 1960s, involves an almost unimaginably high degree of difficulty. Maier's cast of characters includes 14 Churchill family members and 15 Kennedy family members. As chronicled by the author, Winston Churchill, the British prime minister who led his empire through World War II, is without question the dominant figure within his family tree. Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of President John F. Kennedy, is less dominant but a formidable presence nonetheless. Churchill's wife, Clementine, and Joseph's wife, Rose, receive meaningful supporting roles, as do the Churchills' son Randolph and three of the nine Kennedy children (Joseph Junior, JFK and Kathleen). Beginning in the early 1930s, the connections between the two families grew increasingly complex, especially after Joseph became the American ambassador to the U.K., appointed by Franklin Roosevelt. Unsurprisingly, Maier portrays Winston Churchill as a highly educated man of letters who sometimes slipped into despair. He portrays Joseph as a scoundrel in business and a womanizer but someone who demonstrated intense devotion to his children. Perhaps most pleasing is Maier's skill at locating information about less famous individuals who played key roles in the ways the two families connected and disconnected. The most intriguing connecting character is Kay Halle, a writer/socialite who worked her way into the inner circles of both the Kennedys and the Churchills.

As this thick book jumps back and forth between the two families, Maier sometimes strains to link all the words and deeds, but his research carries the book along as interesting anecdotes continue to emerge.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-307-95679-8

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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