An intensely personal and brave accounting of a medical battle and the countless hidden costs of health care.

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LIGHTNING FLOWERS

MY JOURNEY TO UNCOVER THE COST OF SAVING A LIFE

A sharp examination of the ways that a heart condition affected the author’s life as well as those of strangers halfway across the world.

Beginning in 2007, writes Standefer, her younger sister began to suffer multiple bouts of cardiac arrest. She was diagnosed with “congenital long QT syndrome,” a condition that causes the heart to electrically misfire, and she had a cardioverter defibrillator implanted and tried to resume her life. Later, the author discovered that she also had LQTS, and her own world turned upside down as she realized she also needed an implant—or face the uncertainty of not knowing when she might go into cardiac arrest. In this moving, empathetic memoir spanning multiple years, Standefer shares her fears and concerns, especially regarding the manufacture of the implant and whether the cost of making the device equaled the value of its ability to save her own life. She traveled to Madagascar and Rwanda, where the metals used in the defibrillator were mined. “For years,” she writes, “I tried to calculate whether an implanted cardiac defibrillator was worth the cost of its creation….I added up the village removals, the forests half cut and finally bulldozed….I tallied the tailing ponds, the humming forests devoid of humans, the humans beside them desperate for work. The women kept as sex slaves in the mining slums.” The author also writes about her desire for intimacy with her long-term boyfriend and the effects that her condition had on their relationship. She intertwines passages about hiking and rock-climbing adventures with her research on LQTS, creating a nice balance between the difficult medical aspects of her new life and the excursions in nature that she still enjoys. Packed with emotion and a rare, honest assessment of the value of one’s own life, this debut book is a standout.

An intensely personal and brave accounting of a medical battle and the countless hidden costs of health care.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-45036-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown Spark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

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WILL

One of Hollywood’s biggest stars delivers a memoir of success won through endless, relentless work and self-reckoning.

“My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens.” So writes Smith, whose imagination is indeed a thing of wonder—a means of coping with fear, an abusive father with the heart of a drill instructor, and all manner of inner yearnings. The author’s imagination took him from a job bagging ice in Philadelphia to initial success as a partner in the Grammy-winning rap act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith was propelled into stardom thanks to the ministrations of Quincy Jones, who arranged an audition in the middle of his own birthday party, bellowing “No paralysis through analysis!” when Smith begged for time to prepare. The mantra—which Jones intoned 50-odd times during the two hours it took for the Hollywood suits to draw up a contract for the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—is telling, for hidden within this memoir lies a powerful self-help book. For Smith, all of life is a challenge in which one’s feelings are largely immaterial. “I watched my father’s negative emotions seize control of his ample intellect and cause him over and over again to destroy beautiful parts of our family,” he writes, good reason for him to sublimate negativity in the drive to get what he wanted—money, at first, and lots of it, which got him in trouble with the IRS in the early 1990s. Smith, having developed a self-image that cast him as a coward, opines that one’s best life is lived by facing up to the things that hold us back. “I’ve been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that I’m scared of,” he writes, adding, “And this is scary.” It’s a good lesson for any aspiring creative to ponder—though it helps to have Smith’s abundant talent, too.

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984877-92-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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