As usual, Alexievich shines a bright light on those who were there; an excellent book but not for the faint of heart.

LAST WITNESSES

AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE CHILDREN OF WORLD WAR II

The Nobel laureate brings her unique style of collecting firsthand memories to the stories of those who were children during World War II.

Like all of Alexievich’s (The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II, 2017, etc.) books, this one makes for a difficult but powerful reading experience. The Nazis ruthlessly killed entire villages or took all the men who might be partisans out to be shot, transporting women and children to concentration camps. One universal memory of these children was the complete lack of color: Everything was gray or black; spring never arrived. Many raged that they never had a childhood, which was stolen from them. As one 13-year-old recounts, “I learned to be a good shot….But I forgot my math….” The children were not immune to Nazi tortures, and the author does not hide that fact from readers. Even 70 years later, many couldn’t bear to remember the horrors of separation, the killings, and the hunger, which was perpetual—many ate grass, bark, even dirt. One man said there were no tears in him; he didn’t know how to cry. The ages of Alexievich’s subjects range from 4 to 15 years, most in the younger range because the teenagers were usually taken for slave labor or shot. Children were sold as slaves to German farmers and worked to death, but one of the most heinous crimes has to be the Aryan-looking children’s being taken to camps so their blood could be used for transfusions for injured soldiers. The stories of escaping to the East, many alone, are remarkable, especially as we see the total strangers who took them in and treated them as family. Strangers were all they knew, and it was strangers who saved them. There are some uplifting stories of parents finding their children after the war, but many never found anyone.

As usual, Alexievich shines a bright light on those who were there; an excellent book but not for the faint of heart.

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-58875-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more