On this blog, my husband and I will write reviews for books. Some reviews will be from just one of us, others will have opinions from both of us. Join in and share your comments on the items being reviewed, too.
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Monday, March 28, 2011
A Sleeper You Might Have Missed
THE FAMILY THAT COULDN'T SLEEP: A MEDICAL MYSTERY by D. T. Max
The Family That Couldn't Sleep is both a history of our knowledge of prions and the story of an Italian family struggling with a fatal disease passed through generations adeptly interwoven by D. T. Max. The book opens at a gathering of family members in Italy. The family is plagued by an extremely rare disease that manifests in a person's thirties and slowly kills them as they lose the ability to sleep. Some believe this disease may be caused by a prion or something related to a prion. A prion is a small chain of amino acids, basically a renegade protein that can wreak havoc in the brain. D. T. Max does an excellent job of keeping the science understandable and interesting. As we learn more about the family's history we also learn of the history of prions, including what they are, where they might have come from, how prions manifest disease in animals and humans, how prion diseases have spread, all way to our current age of dealing with mad cow disease and brain disease Creuzfeldt-Jakob Disease. The stories of the Nobel Prize winning scientist are just as fascinating and startling as the rest of the book. As the story unfolds we travel from the streets of Italy to the jungles of New Guinea. D. T. Max, who suffers from a neurological disorder, does a wonderful job of weaving the science and human condition together with sympathy and talent.