If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a super-ambitious 30-something with a high-powered job, an equally high-powered husband and three kids under seven, wonder no more. We don’t just get to know Sarah Nickerson, the narrator of Lisa Genova’s second novel, Left Neglected, convincingly read by Sarah Paulson; we get to live in her mind, to see and experience life as she does. Sarah’s sure she can drive, talk on the phone and strategize all at once. Then her car flips over on a rain-drenched highway and all that came before comes to a sudden stop. When Sarah regains consciousness, her traumatic brain injury has delivered her into a world with no left side; she has an uncommon, terribly debilitating condition called Left Neglect Syndrome. Using her background in neuroscience (she has a Harvard Ph.D.) and her skill as a writer, Genova makes this illness and the recovery from it into a metaphor for the wildly demanding, over-scheduled life we’ve come to accept as the norm and her portrait of Sarah, before and after, into a poignant reminder to live life, not work, to its fullest.


Marissa Fordham’s throat was slashed with such ferocity that she was almost decapitated—and huddled against her mutilated body was her four-year-old daughter Haley, her small neck horribly bruised from an attempted strangling. That’s just for openers in Secrets to the Grave, Tami Hoag’s sequel to Deeper than the Dead. It’s set in Oak Knoll, a seemingly idyllic, upscale college town near Santa Barbara, and performed with good pacing and strong character definition by Kirsten Potter. Little Haley had somehow managed to call 911 and whisper, “My daddy hurt my mommy.” But no one knows who Haley’s daddy is. The glamorous, charming Marissa, who arrived in town when Haley was a baby, never said a word about the missing progenitor, and Haley calls every man she knows “Daddy.” The detectives, including retired FBI profiler Vince Leone, have a lot of suspects but little conclusive evidence. Hoag’s been in the thriller-diller-killer business for a long time and proves, yet again, that she knows how to ratchet up the suspense and keep you guessing.


Fascinating, almost mesmerizing, equally disturbing and encouraging, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies is the biography of cancer, a disease that killed more than seven million people worldwide last year and that may be the “defining plague of our generation.” Mukherjee, a cancer researcher and physician, is also a gifted writer who makes the complexities of the science surrounding cancer understandable. Following the labyrinthine history of cancer research in the last 100 years, he profiles the researchers who have dedicated so much of their lives to the fight to treat and beat this malicious malady. Mukherjee puts everything in its very human context, from the moving personal stories of his own patients to the infighting among cancer professionals, the misconceptions, the setbacks, the slow triumphs that have emerged and the glimpses of what the future may hold. Though there is much scientific and medical detail, Stephen Hoye’s straightforward reading adds clarity as it carries you through this magisterial narrative.



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