Harvard Book Store welcomes bestselling author ROBIN COOK—author of Coma, Cell, Host, and many others—and physician and writer DANIELA LAMAS—pulmonary and critical care doctor at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital—for a discussion of their respective new books, Pandemic: A Novel and You Can Stop Humming Now: A Doctor’s Stories of Life, Death, and In Between.
When an unidentified, seemingly healthy young woman collapses suddenly on the New York City subway and dies upon reaching the hospital, her case is an eerie reminder for veteran medical examiner Jack Stapleton of the 1918 flu pandemic. Fearful of a repeat on the one-hundredth anniversary of the nightmarish contagion, Jack autopsies the woman within hours of her demise and discovers some striking anomalies: first, that she has had a heart transplant, and second, that, against all odds, her DNA matches that of the transplanted heart.
Although the facts don’t add up to influenza, Jack must race against the clock to identify the woman and determine what kind of virus could wreak such havoc—a task made more urgent when two other victims succumb to a similar rapid death. But nothing makes sense until his investigation leads him into the fascinating realm of CRISPR/CAS9, a gene-editing biotechnology that’s captured the imagination of the medical community . . . and the attention of its most unethical members. Drawn into the dark underbelly of the organ transplant market, Jack will come face-to-face with a megalomaniacal businessman willing to risk human lives in order to conquer a lucrative new frontier in medicine—and if Jack’s not careful, the next life lost might be his own.
Modern medicine is a world that glimmers with new technology and cutting-edge research. To the public eye, medical stories often begin with sirens and flashing lights and culminate in survival or death. But these are only the most visible narratives. As a critical care doctor treating people at their sickest, Daniela Lamas is fascinated by a different story: what comes after for those whose lives are extended by days, months, or years as a result of our treatments and technologies?
In You Can Stop Humming Now, Lamas explores the complex answers to this question through intimate accounts of patients and their families. A grandfather whose failing heart has been replaced by a battery-operated pump; a salesman who found himself a kidney donor on social media; a college student who survived a near-fatal overdose and returned home, alive but not the same; and a young woman navigating an adulthood she never thought she’d live to see—these moving narratives paint a detailed picture of the fragile border between sickness and health.
Riveting, gorgeously told, and deeply personal, You Can Stop Humming Now is a compassionate, uncompromising look at the choices and realities that many of us, and our families, may one day face.
“Cook richly develops characters, allowing us to share their most personal thoughts and professional concerns.” —USA Today
“Daniela Lamas is the real thing. Her voice is wry, compassionate, sometimes doctorly, and sometimes not. And she’s written a gripping, soaring, inspiring book about the sickest people on the planet. It’s an important story too—about not only death, but also survival. Read it. You’ll see things you’ve never seen. You’ll be moved. And you’ll discover a voice you want to hear more from.”―Atul Gawande, author of the international bestseller Being Mortal
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.