A moving tribute to the evergreen lessons of the heart.

THE BEST OF US

A MEMOIR

An acclaimed novelist recounts how a brief late-life marriage taught her the meaning of partnership.

Maynard (Under the Influence, 2016, etc.) was a successful single woman in her late 50s who was “done with marriage” when she met Jim, a divorced San Francisco lawyer, on Match.com. Fit and handsome, Jim looked like he was “probably a Republican.” But from their first open-hearted conversation, Maynard knew he was different. Still, caution ruled her actions. She had been independent and casually dating for more than 20 years and “wasn’t sure I should try love anymore.” However, the more time she spent with Jim, who accepted and loved the foibles other men had not, the more she realized that he was her “long-awaited sweetheart.” He was the brave and loving “guard dog” who could give her the “big love” she had always wanted but never found. For the next year, they lived in a state of perpetual bliss. Nothing—not even past romantic and personal failures and family tensions—seemed to cast a shadow on their happiness. They married less than a year after they met and bought a beautiful home together, where they envisioned a future that included visits from grandchildren and harvesting olives from trees they would plant. Then, a year after they wed, doctors diagnosed Jim with pancreatic cancer. For the next 19 months, they embarked on a roller-coaster ride that took them from the pinnacle of hope to the depths of despair and finally to painful acceptance of Jim’s inevitable demise. Told through loving, minutely remembered details that celebrate a once-in-a-lifetime love, the narrative, which only occasionally descends into overly sappy territory (“tourists in the country of love”), immerses readers in a story that, even at its darkest, strives to find meaning in calamity, heartbreak, and loss.

A moving tribute to the evergreen lessons of the heart.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63557-034-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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