Get Well Soon

Get Well Soon

Get Well Soon

Jennifer Wright

Club Selection for May 2017

Pages: 336 / Audio: 7 Hrs 43 mins
Published February 7th 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.
 
A witty, irreverent tour of history's worst plagues—from the Antonine Plague, to leprosy, to polio—and a celebration of the heroes who fought them.
In 1518, in a small town in Alsace, Frau Troffea began dancing and didn’t stop. She danced until she was carried away six days later, and soon thirty-four more villagers joined her. Then more. In a month more than 400 people had been stricken by the mysterious dancing plague. In late-seventeenth-century England an eccentric gentleman founded the No Nose Club in his gracious townhome—a social club for those who had lost their noses, and other body parts, to the plague of syphilis for which there was then no cure. And in turn-of-the-century New York, an Irish cook caused two lethal outbreaks of typhoid fever, a case that transformed her into the notorious Typhoid Mary.

Throughout time, humans have been terrified and fascinated by the diseases history and circumstance have dropped on them. Some of their responses to those outbreaks are almost too strange to believe in hindsight. Get Well Soon delivers the gruesome, morbid details of some of the worst plagues we’ve suffered as a species, as well as stories of the heroic figures who selflessly fought to ease the suffering of their fellow man. With her signature mix of in-depth research and storytelling, and not a little dark humor, Jennifer Wright explores history’s most gripping and deadly outbreaks, and ultimately looks at the surprising ways they’ve shaped history and humanity for almost as long as anyone can remember.

 

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Carol's Rating: ★★★

"The purpose of this book is not to scare you. Instead, like all good books, it is intended to distract you from the screaming baby one aisle over from the airplane where you are currently trapped for the next five hours."

It took me a bit to get into this book but once I did, I liked it. It's one of those books that you find yourself pondering long after you've finished reading it. I was aware of many of the diseases discussed in the book but was surprised to discover that I had no idea how gruesome they really were. This is important stuff to know. It's easy to pass them off as though they could never happen again but that is simply a false sense of security. It's critical that we act responsibly in order educate and protect ourselves and our communities from the spreading of disease.

It was interesting to me that things that are common sense today, such as cleanliness, was the culprit of many of the epidemics in early history. (Really? You think it's a good idea to throw your sewage into your basement?) I also find it fascinating that when fear kicks in, people will grasp for anything to help, even nonsensical and usually quite disgusting practices in hopes to cure what ails them - this even happens in the world today.

I wasn't sure what to expect regarding the humor but soon discovered the sarcasm to be pretty entertaining at times. Her references to the X-men, Mumps Matilda, Meningitis Mathew, etc had me giggling. In the end, I learned a lot from this book and I agree with the author's overall message that sick people are not villains to be shunned and isolated. They are simply unwell. We need to be smart and more compassionate. We need to separate the disease from the diseased and "give a damn about our fellow man".

 

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About the Author

 

Jennifer Wright Author

Jennifer Wright

Jennifer Wright is a columnist for the New York Observer and the New York Post, covering sex and dating. She was one of the founding editors of TheGloss.com, and her writing regularly appears in such publications as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Maxim. Her breakup cure is gin, reruns of 30 Rock, and historical biographies. She lives and loves in New York City.

Source: us.macmillan.com

Interviews & Other Cool Stuff

 

Jennifer Wright author "Get Well Soon" on "BookTalk" Radio

Published on Feb 9, 2017

Doug Miles talks with Jennifer Wright ("It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History") about her new book "Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them" on "Talk Across America" (www.dougmilesmedia.com)

 

 

There are many heroes and a few villains mentioned in this book. Here's a just a handful of the most memorable ones.

 

Father Damien with lepers
Father Damien with lepers quarantined on the island of Molokai. "Father Damien is reminder that you don't have to be genius or a brilliant scientist or a doctor to help in the war against disease; you just have to be someone who gives a damn about your fellow man."

 

Typhoid Mary Mallon
Asymptomatic Typhoid carrier Mary Mallon, dubbed Typhoid Mary in 1909 by reporters, was forcibly taken by the government to a small island in New York's East River, where she remained isolated and confined for most of her life.

 

Walter Freemand II

 

Walter Freeman II, a consummate showman, traveled the country in his Lobotomobile and performed lobotomies to treat everything from "excessive eating" to drug addiction to alcoholism. And to make it even more unbelievable, people were lined up to get one!

...lobotomies, the scariest procedure that you never want performed. This is a plague induced by human stupidity, not disease..."

 

 

 

images of Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin admitting vaccines to children.
Jonas Salk (left) and Albert Sabin (right) administering their polio vaccines to children. Salk developed the killed virus vaccine while Sabin developed the live one. The two became bitter rivals, with Sabin referring to Salk as merely "a kitchen chemist." Fortunately for all of us, both vaccines worked.

 

 

Here’s what to do when the next big plague hits humanity

New York Post |February 11, 2017

Runny nose? Sore throat? Wheezing? Painful joints? No — you are not going to die. It is just a winter flu. Probably. Bolstered by antibiotics, brandishing an inhaler and slurping chicken soup, you will likely live to fight another day.

Not so in the past. Then a sore throat could mean death by dinner time. Nearly every generation has had to deal with a widespread infectious disease that swiftly strikes down otherwise healthy individuals. Plagues kill a whole bunch of people. And they can take society and the economy down with them.

The notion that in this interconnected world we’re not likely to experience a massive epidemic is too good to be true. Maybe not this year. Maybe not in your lifetime. But it’s not a question of whether humanity will face another plague. We will. And then we will be faced with how to handle that plague when it comes. Will we respond with science, stoicism and compassion? Or will we just burn our neighbors as witches?

The answers to these questions likely come from the past. Here are some of the most gruesome plagues from my new book “Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them” and what we can learn from them.

[Read full article]

 

 

How Would Donald Trump Handle A Plague Outbreak?
‘Get Well Soon’ author Jennifer Wright has the answer
NYLON | February 07, 2017
 
There’s a common enough sentiment right now that we’re confronting apocalyptic times. It’s hard not to think that. After all, here in America, we currently have a commander in chief who is basically taunting other world leaders with threats of invasion, to say nothing of his ongoing insistence that climate change is a myth and that vaccines are something about which we should all be skeptical. What a time to be alive, right?

Well, if you’re looking for something to read that will simultaneously stoke and soothe your fears, look no further than Jennifer Wright’s excellent new book, Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them. In it, Wright recounts civilization’s many epic biological disasters. From leprosy to the bubonic plague and the Spanish flu to cholera, Get Well Soon acquaints readers with some of the most deadly periods in human history. And while this might sound like it makes for some pretty depressing reading, Wright manages to make the most dire of topics not only incredibly compelling but also, often, hilariously funny. ....

...We recently spoke with Wright about her new book, why it’s important to laugh during even the most tragic times, and how she thinks our new president would handle an outbreak of the plague. Read on! And try not to get too scared.

[Read full article]

 

Book Club Mojo

Kelly hosted the meeting and provided a fun, relaxing evening full of great discussion, great food, and great drink! We had a thought provoking discussion about the things that fascinated and surprised us most about the plagues. The epilogue topic of AIDS was also discussed and really had us thinking about the possibilities of future plagues, how our leaders would manage (or deny) the situation, and what we believed would be the best course(s) of action. 

 

image of the gang
Novel Gobblers (left to right) Donna, Dawn, Carol Ann, and Kelly. We sure enjoy these opportunities to catch up with each other and chat about books (and pretty much everything else!). We all come away from the meetings having gained new perspectives and sometimes a few extra pounds!

 

Just look at all this deliciousness! Treat your friends and family to Kelly's Taco Salad, Bacon-Wrapped Pepper Poppers, and Keto Cheesecake Tarts. They'll love you for it. Pass the guacamole, please!

 

 

Discussion Questions

Source: Kelly

1.  What was your initial recation to the book? Did it hook you immediately, or did it take some time to get into it?

2.  How do you think would Donald Trump handle a plague outbreak?

3.  What did you think about the humorous aspect of the book?

4.  What surprised you the most when you were reading this book?

5.  Which of the plagues did you find most intriguing and why?

 

List of Chapters

Antonine Plague                         Cholera

Bubonic Plague                           Leprosy

Dancing Plague                           Typhoid

Smallpox                                       Spanish Flu

Syphilis                                         Encephalitis Lethargica

Tuberculosis                                Lobotomies  

Polio


Source: Nylon article (above) entitled "How Would Donald Trump Handle a Plague Outbreak?" by Kristin Iversen

 

1.  This book is centered around some of the deadliest, most devastating plagues to wreak havoc upon civilization. Why would Jennifer Wright choose a topic so dark?

2.  How did the author manage to keep things witty when covering such dark periods in history?

3.  Which were the author's favorite plagues? Why?

4.  In times of epic disaster, what separates the heroes from everybody else?

5.  Which of the historic figures mentioned in this book do you most admire?

6. Who are history’s straight-up villains when it comes to dealing with plagues?

7.  How do you think Trump would be equipped to handle a disaster of that magnitude?

Happy Reading!

Lab Girl

Lab Girl

Book Cover for Lab Girl by Hope JahrenLab Girl

Hope Jahren

Club Selection for April 2017

Pages: 290 / Audio: 11 Hrs 45 mins
Published April 5th 2016 by Knopf (first published March 1st 2016)
 
Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also so much more.
Lab Girl is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.

Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.

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About the Author

 

Goodreads Author Hope Jahren

HOPE JAHREN

Hope Jahren is an award-winning scientist who has been pursuing independent research in paleobiology since 1996, when she completed her PhD at UC Berkeley and began teaching and researching first at the Georgia Institute of Technology and then at Johns Hopkins University. She is the recipient of three Fulbright Awards and is one of four scientists, and the only woman, to have been awarded both of the Young Investigator Medals given in the Earth Sciences. Currently, she is a tenured professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa where in 2008 she built the Isotope Geobiology Laboratories, with support from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Institutes of Health.

Interviews & Other Cool Stuff

 

 

 
PBS NEWSHOUR
The secret life of plants — and ‘Lab Girl’ author Hope Jahren
May 24, 2016 at 6:20 PM EDT

 

'Lab Girl': An Homage To The Wonders Of All Things Green
April 22, 20165:10 AM ET
Heard on Morning Edition

Listen below or get the transcript here

Book Club Mojo

Donna hosted the meeting for Lab Girl and pulled together a beautiful evening full of great discussion and delicious food themed after the book; Potato Dumplings (a true labor of love) and Hungarian Goulash. She also prepared a fresh Cucumber Tomato Salad and served Pickled Beet Salad from Trader Joes. We were all so busy talking and enjoying the meal that we forgot to take photos of the evening so you'll want to look over Donna's recipes and give them a try to experience Lab Girl more fully!

Discussion Questions

Source: Litlovers

1. How did Jahren's upbringing help determine her dedication to science? Consider her father's background as a science teacher and her mother's love of English literature.

2. One of the literary tropes Jahren uses in her memoir is the comparison of plant life with human life. Talk about the parallels she draws between her subjects and herself. In what ways are we all similar to our rooted, blossoming brethren? Do you see those parallels in your own life?

3. What do you find most remarkable in Jahren's descriptions of the wonders of the natural world? Consider, for instance, the sheer numbers of the plant world. Or how the willow tree clones itself...or the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi...or the airborne signals of trees in their perennial war against insects.

4. Talk about Jahren's struggle with manic depression and how it has affected her life and work.

5. How would you describe Jahren's relationship with her lab partner Bill? What makes both professional and personal relationship work?

6. Describe some of the hardships that make life for any scientist difficult—bucking the status quo, the often endless waiting for results, the grunt work, or the scarcity of funding.

7. Will you ever take a tree—or any plant life—for granted again?

 

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Source: Penguin Random House

1. Lab Girl opens with a detailed description of the laboratory Jahren loved as a child. How does she transform a cinder-block room stocked with scientific equipment into a “castle” (p. 8)?  In what ways do her recollections of her time in the lab and the trips home late at night with her father evoke the mood and magic of fairy tales? 

2. Jahren writes of the emotional distances between members of a Scandinavian family, of “growing up in a culture where you can never ask anyone anything about themselves” (p.11). Are Jahren’s feelings about her family shaped solely by cultural tradition? 

3. Does Jahren’s observation that “being mother and daughter has always felt like an experiment that we just can’t get right” (p. 16) capture something you have experienced, either as a parent or child? Why do you think Jahren dedicated Lab Girl to her mother? 

4. Jahren writes, “I chose science because science gave me what I needed—a home as defined in the most literal sense: a safe place to be” (p. 18).  Discuss and evaluate the combination of elements that determine her choice, including her attachment to her father and the recognition that “being a scientist wasn’t his job, it was his identity,” the acceptance by her science professors of “the very attributes that rendered me a nuisance to all of my previous teachers,” and her simple declaration that the desire to become a scientist “was founded upon a deep instinct and nothing more.”  Compare this initial explanation with the self-portrait she offers in the final chapter (p. 277).
 [eallen1]Per text of book. 

5. In alternating chapters, Jahren forges links between her own life and the plants that have populated it. How does the story of the blue spruce tree (pp. 27–29) set a pattern that is echoed and enhanced throughout the book? What insights do these close examinations of a large variety of plants provide into the needs and the capabilities shared by all living things? Is there a particular topic—for instance, the universal struggle for survival or the interdependence evident in nature—that resonates with you?

6. In recalling her first scientific breakthrough, Jahren writes, “On some deep level, the realization that I could do good science was accompanied by the knowledge that I had formally and terminally missed my chance to become like any of the women that I had ever known” (p. 71).  What are the emotional and practical repercussions of this moment?  Is there a moment in most people’s lives that marks a line between who they are and who they might have been?

7. Jahren describes her struggles with mental illness in a gripping and vivid interlude (pp. 144–47).  Why do you think she introduces this at the midpoint of her book?

8. Jahren’s relationship with Bill is a sustained theme in Lab Girl.  In what ways do Bill’s manner and methods in the lab complement Jahren’s?  What qualities shape their behavior toward each other on a personal level? Discuss the sense of intimacy and tolerance at the core of their friendship, as well as the boundaries they establish.  What do their long conversations, their reactions to institutional rules, and the misadventures they share on their field trips all add to the book?  In what ways does their trip to the Arctic capture the essence of their bond (pp. 195–201)?

9. What previously hidden aspects of Jahren’s character come to light as she describes her meeting and marriage to Clint (pp. 205–209)?  

10. Jahren writes of her pregnancy, “I know that I am supposed to be happy and excited. . . . I am supposed to celebrate the ripening fruit of love and luxuriate in the fullness of my womb. But I don’t do any of this” (p. 217).  How do such factors as her childhood, her professional ambitions, and her mental illness affect her experience? Why does she “decide that I will not be this child’s mother. Instead, I will be his father” (p. 228). 

11. What obstacles does Jahren face in her career as a research scientist?  Are some of the setbacks Jahren faces attributable to her being a woman in a male-dominated field? 

12. Do you agree that “America may say that it values science, but it sure as hell doesn’t want to pay for it” (p. 123)?

13. Science writing is sometimes criticized for seeming to anthropomorphize scientific subjects. Do you think that Jahren avoids this potential pitfall? In what ways do her choice of words and use of metaphor balance the scientific facts that she wants to convey with having the reader understand and even delight in these facts? What facts did you find most interesting?

14. As you read Lab Girl, were you equally engaged with the autobiographical sections and the chapters on plants and trees, or did you find yourself more drawn to one or the other? 

15. Lab Girl makes use of a wide range of language and tones, from the scientific to the colloquial, from biblical references to profanity. Does this range subvert our expectations about how scientists “should” talk? What do the different tones reveal about Hope? How does her varied language help us to see her in multiple lights—as scientist and writer, as friend and human?

16. Memoir is a highly intimate form. Do you feel you’ve gotten to know Hope through Lab Girl? Does she seem similar or different to science teachers you have had? Do you see her as an inspiration for young women who want to pursue a career in science?

 

 

Happy Reading!