Genetics and Evolution

 email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
A Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Mind So RareA Natural History of RapeAcquiring GenomesAdapting MindsAgeing, Health and CareAlas, Poor DarwinAn Introduction to Evolutionary EthicsAncient Bodies, Modern LivesAnimal ArchitectsAping MankindAre We Hardwired?Bang!BehavingBeyond EvolutionBeyond GeneticsBlood MattersBody BazaarBoneBrain Evolution and CognitionBrain StormBrave New BrainBrave New WorldsChoosing ChildrenCloneCloningConceptual Issues in Evolutionary BiologyConsciousness EvolvingContemporary Debates in Philosophy of BiologyControlling Our DestiniesCooperation and Its EvolutionCreatures of AccidentDarwin Loves YouDarwin's Brave New WorldDarwin's Gift to Science and ReligionDarwin's UniverseDarwin's WormsDarwinian ConservatismDarwinian PsychiatryDarwinism and its DiscontentsDarwinism as ReligionDebating DesignDecoding DarknessDefenders of the TruthDo We Still Need Doctors?Doubting Darwin?Early WarningEngineering the Human GermlineEnhancing EvolutionEnoughEntwined LivesEthical Issues in Human CloningEthical Issues in the New GeneticsEvil GenesEvolutionEvolutionEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorEvolution and LearningEvolution and ReligionEvolution and the Human MindEvolution in MindEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolution: The Modern SynthesisEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Origins of MoralityEvolutionary PsychiatryEvolutionary PsychologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolutionary Psychology as Maladapted PsychologyExploding the Gene MythFaces of Huntington'sFlesh of My FleshFrom Chance to ChoiceFrom Darwin to HitlerGenesGenes in ConflictGenes on the CouchGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Women, EqualityGenetic Nature/CultureGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetic SecretsGenetics in the MadhouseGenetics of Criminal and Antisocial BehaviourGenetics of Mental DisordersGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenomeGenomeGenome: Updated EditionGenomes and What to Make of ThemGlowing GenesHow Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So StoriesHuman CloningHuman Evolution, Reproduction, and MoralityImproving Nature?In Our Own ImageIn Pursuit of the GeneIn the Name of GodIngenious GenesInheritanceInside the Human GenomeInside the O'BriensIntegrating Evolution and DevelopmentIntelligence, Race, and GeneticsIs Human Nature Obsolete?Language OriginsLess Than HumanLiberal EugenicsLiving with Our GenesMaking Genes, Making WavesMaking Sense of EvolutionMan As The PrayerMean GenesMenMood GenesMoral OriginsMothers and OthersNature Via NurtureNever Let Me GoNot By Genes AloneOf Flies, Mice, and MenOn the Origin of StoriesOrigin of MindOrigins of Human NatureOrigins of PsychopathologyOur Posthuman FuturePhilosophy of BiologyPlaying God?Playing God?Portraits of Huntington'sPrimates and PhilosophersPromiscuityPsychiatric Genetics and GenomicsPsychologyQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRe-creating MedicineRedesigning HumansResearch Advances in Genetics and GenomicsResponsible GeneticsResponsible GeneticsScience, Seeds and CyborgsSex and WarSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsStrange BedfellowsStrange BehaviorSubjects of the WorldSubordination and DefeatThe Age of EmpathyThe Agile GeneThe Ape and the Sushi MasterThe Biotech CenturyThe Blank SlateThe Book of LifeThe Boy Who Loved Too MuchThe Bridge to HumanityThe Case Against PerfectionThe Case for PerfectionThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Century of the GeneThe Common ThreadThe Concept of the Gene in Development and EvolutionThe Debated MindThe Double-Edged HelixThe Epidemiology of SchizophreniaThe Ethics of Choosing ChildrenThe Ethics of Human CloningThe Evolution of CooperationThe Evolution of MindThe Evolution of MindThe Evolved ApprenticeThe Evolving WorldThe Extended Selfish GeneThe Fact of EvolutionThe Folly of FoolsThe Future of Human NatureThe God GeneThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Impact of the GeneThe Innate MindThe Innate MindThe Innate Mind: Volume 3The Limits and Lies of Human Genetic ResearchThe Lives of the BrainThe Maladapted MindThe Meme MachineThe Misunderstood GeneThe Moral, Social, and Commercial Imperatives of Genetic Testing and ScreeningThe Most Dangerous AnimalThe New Genetic MedicineThe Nurture AssumptionThe Origin and Evolution of CulturesThe Origins of FairnessThe Paradoxical PrimateThe Perfect BabyThe Robot's RebellionThe Selfish GeneThe Shape of ThoughtThe Shattered SelfThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Story WithinThe Stuff of LifeThe Talking ApeThe Temperamental ThreadThe Terrible GiftThe Theory of OptionsThe Top 10 Myths About EvolutionThe Triple HelixThe Triumph of SociobiologyThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaTwinsUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding the GenomeUnnatural SelectionUnto OthersUp From DragonsVoracious Science and Vulnerable AnimalsWar Against the WeakWhat Genes Can't DoWhat It Means to Be 98 Percent ChimpanzeeWho Owns YouWhose View of Life?Why Evolution Is TrueWhy Think? WondergenesWrestling with Behavioral GeneticsYour Genetic Destiny

Related Topics
Portraits of Huntington'sReview - Portraits of Huntington's
Choosing Joy Through Life Lessons
by Carmen Leal
Essence Publishing, 2001
Review by Kevin T. Keith
Apr 16th 2004 (Volume 8, Issue 16)

Portraits of Huntington's: Choosing Joy Through Life Lessons is a followup to Carmen Leal's previous work on Huntington Disease, Faces of Huntington's; some of its content is, as well, reprinted from an earlier inspirational book, Pinches of Salt, Prisms of Light. Fans of Leal's previous work will find much to appreciate here; newcomers will have to decide whether the particular strengths of this book meet their needs.

The book is intended as a collection of "uplifting" anecdotes and encouragement, drawn from Leal's personal experiences married to a man with Huntington Disease. It has a distinct but not pervasive Christian perspective; it is not an overtly religious book but the author's religious beliefs are brought out. It is not didactic and does not advise on the practical necessities of caring for a person with HD; in fact, though Leal's experiences, and her stories, are specific to life with a person with HD, most of her message is applicable to anyone.

The book is divided into sections representing different virtues or strengths ("Knowledge," "Laughter," "Patience," "Compassion," "Faith," "Love," "Hope," "Joy"); each contains a handful of anecdotes apparently intended to illustrate the theme of the section. (The link is tenuous in some cases; the various sections do not seem all that different from one another.) With no introductory or discursive sections, the book does not draw conclusions from its stories or attempt to synthesize them into broad principles; it is not a "self-help" book or a guide for caregivers of those with debilitative disease. It is simply a collection of "heartwarming stories"; the overall message, if there is one, is that an optimistic perspective and a great deal of tolerance are required to meet challenges.

The stories range in tone from rueful to humorous. The anecdotes tend not to be particularly dramatic (a mouse in the kitchen, packing the wrong things for a trip overseas). The closing messages with which Leal ends each story are equally banal. ("[R]emember this: your worst fears might never be realized." "[L]ook for the miracles." "[O]ur hopes have a better chance of being realized if we are the joyful generation.") The included poems and lyrics by her friends and relatives ("In a world often heartless and cruel / Where our children are grieving in school / I look to the sky / And ask God 'Why oh why?'"), and the just-slightly-awkward pencil sketches prefacing each section, drawn by another of Leal's friends, add to the painfully sincere tone of the entire work.

For all that, Leal's love for her husband, Dave, and the genuine conflict she feels, caught between her desire to assist him and the real difficulties of doing so, come through in an authentic way. In places, she manages to convey the pathos of what has been lost -- both for her and Dave -- to his disease: her contrast of her husband's pre-symptomatic period, as an intelligent, vigorous man with an MBA, with his childlike, almost incommunicative personality late in the disease progression (his single greatest joy was a day spent at Disneyworld, where he met a person dressed in a Goofy cartoon costume), is poignant. Her sense of humor about her challenges shapes each of the stories, and she brings it to her understanding of her husband's condition as well (she is particularly good-natured about one of the few distinctive personality traits that persists through his HD-related deterioration: his fondness for good-looking women, which leads him to wander into Sarah Michelle Gellar films at the local theater, and develop crushes on his nursing staff). His struggles, and hers, to maintain a familial relationship -- between themselves, and between Dave and her children -- as his condition worsens are especially moving, and the breakthrough moments when he blurts out "I love you," or responds when they say it to him, transcend any amount of clunky prose.

In the end, Portraits of Huntington's will appeal to those who seek brief, optimistic diversions as they struggle with their own burdens; it will especially hearten family members or caregivers of those with chronic and debilitating diseases, who will surely find Leal's stories familiar and her positive take on them inspiring. There is something to be learned from the book about dealing with long-term illness and caregiving, and especially about maintaining a sense of humor while doing so. The book is not a primer for caregivers, still less an educational tool regarding HD. (It does not even particularly "portray" those with the disease. Most of the stories would be equally effective if the subject had had some other disease, making the book less about people struggling with HD per se than it is about people facing any draining, demanding, chronic burden.) But as light reading with an optimistic tone and a useful message, the book fills a certain niche. Family members and caregivers of persons with HD and other debilitating diseases, and who appreciate "uplifting" literature, may find it reassuring and enjoyable.



2004 Kevin T. Keith


Link: Author website


Kevin T. Keith, M.A., City College, CUNY


Welcome to Metapsychology. We feature over 8200 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than twenty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!

Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click here.

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716