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Mercies in Disguise: Book summary and reviews of Mercies in Disguise by Gina Kolata

Mercies in Disguise

A Story of Hope, a Family's Genetic Destiny, and the Science That Rescued Them

by Gina Kolata

Mercies in Disguise
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  • Publishes in USA 
    Mar 21, 2017
    272 pages
    Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

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About this book

Book Summary

The phone rings. The doctor from California is on the line. "Are you ready Amanda?" The two people Amanda Baxley loves the most had begged her not to be tested--at least, not now. But she had to find out.

If your family carried a mutated gene that foretold a brutal illness and you were offered the chance to find out if you'd inherited it, would you do it? Would you walk toward the problem, bravely accepting whatever answer came your way? Or would you avoid the potential bad news as long as possible?

In Mercies in Disguise, acclaimed New York Times science reporter and bestselling author Gina Kolata tells the story of the Baxleys, an almost archetypal family in a small town in South Carolina. A proud and determined clan, many of them doctors, they are struck one by one with an inscrutable illness. They finally discover the cause of the disease after a remarkable sequence of events that many saw as providential. Meanwhile, science, progressing for a half a century along a parallel track, had handed the Baxleys a resolution--not a cure, but a blood test that would reveal who had the gene for the disease and who did not. And science would offer another dilemma--fertility specialists had created a way to spare the children through an expensive process.

A work of narrative nonfiction in the tradition of the The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Mercies in Disguise is the story of a family that took matters into its own hands when the medical world abandoned them. It's a story of a family that had to deal with unspeakable tragedy and yet did not allow it to tear them apart. And it is the story of a young woman--Amanda Baxley--who faced the future head on, determined to find a way to disrupt her family's destiny.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Mercies in Disguise reads like a medical thriller; I simply couldn't stop once I began." - Dr. Abraham Verghese, author of New York Times bestseller, Cutting for Stone

"[An] extraordinary medical mystery, scientific history and, above all, human drama. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. Then, when I finished it, I couldn't stop thinking about the Baxleys and the choices they faced." - Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography

The information about Mercies in Disguise shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Viqui G. (State College, PA)

Mercies in Disguise
Genetic diseases are very chilling since there is no medication or antibiotic to "cure" them. This book was a fascinating true story of a family unknowingly affected by a genetic neurological disorder that we learn later in the book is GSS (Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker) disease. The author, Gina Kolata did a great job of explaining the difficult background research that helped scientists figure out the cause of these neurological diseases. She also introduced to the reader the concept that prion abnormalities in a parent could then be transferred to children of those affected parents. But Kolata humanized the research and medicine by telling us about the Baxter family and their agonizing struggle with their emerging knowledge about the disease that was ravaging some of their members. Kolata's writing is informative but also full of compassion.

This book was excellent and very readable. I heartily recommend it to anyone, especially to anyone who is interested in medicine or science.

Janice C. (Hayward, CA)

Mercies In Disquise
Loved Henrietta Lacks. Loved Mercies In Disguise. Left me with the question ... what would I do?

Joan B. (Ellicott City, MD)

Mercies in Disguise
Gina Kolata successfully links scientific research with family challenges. I was particularly interested in genetic links to specific diseases.since I have lost two siblings to different forms of cancer. I am faced with the same illness in a different form. The greatest parallel between the Baxters and my family is the heartache of health decision making. The process of making life altering decisions is dramatically difficult. I was releived to read that opposing ideas were revealed.

The story read like fiction and gave me a banquet of food for thought.

SusanS

Mercies in Disguise by Gina Kolata
"Mercies in Disguise" traces both science and human drama: Is prion disease real? Why is the medical establishment so skeptical? Assume it's real--how would a deeply religious Southern Baptist respond to caring for the disabled, warning the younger generation (or not), facing questions of possible pregnancies? Kolata's account is a thoughtful page-turner.

Beverly J. (Hoover, AL)

Profoundly Compelling!
Once I started reading this profoundly compelling book I could not put the book down. Kudos to the author's writing skill to effectively write an intimate story about a family's search to find the truth balanced against the medical/scientific communities diligence and passion to leave no stone unturned. Keep a box of tissues handy this book will touch your heart, mind and spirit.

Tracy N. (Mill Valley, CA)

Blessings from Tragedy
In life there can be many trials and tribulations. Mercies in Disguise by Gina Kolata delivers this message in her new medical thriller. It reminds me of a song called "Blessings" by Laura Story that highlights the theme of this story that there are "mercies in disguise". Mercies are blessings or gifts that come from despair, suffering, and hardship. We can be positively changed by our tragedies This true story focuses on one extended family that seeks to understand what their degenerative disease of the central nervous system is and partners with medical science to define and research this protein gene abnormality. The Baxley family is a Christian family in South Carolina who are tested in love, faith and determination to persevere in the face of a terrible genetic disease. When finally there is a diagnosis, the next question is: do you get tested to find out if you carry the debilitating brain disease that killed your father, aunt, uncles, grandfather and possibly you? It is a suspenseful tale as it transcends countries, time and many different people who are all committed to solving this tragic medical dilemma.

...33 more reader reviews

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More Information

Gina Kolata (M.A.) is a writer and medical reporter for The New York Times. She has previously written five books and edited three collections of popular science writing. Ms. Kolata lives with her husband in Princeton, New Jersey.

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