Synopses & Reviews
Oliver Sacks has always been fascinated by islands their remoteness, their mystery, above all the unique forms of life they harbor. For him, islands conjure up equally the romance of Melville and Stevenson, the adventure of Magellan and Cook, and the scientific wonder of Darwin and Wallace.
Drawn to the tiny Pacific atoll of Pingelap by intriguing reports of an isolated community of islanders born totally colorblind, Sacks finds himself setting up a clinic in a one-room island dispensary, where he listens to these achromatopic islanders describe their colorless world in rich terms of pattern and tone, luminance and shadow. And on Guam, where he goes to investigate the puzzling neurodegenerative paralysis endemic there for a century, he becomes, for a brief time, an island neurologist, making house calls with his colleague John Steele, amid crowing cockerels, cycad jungles, and the remains of a colonial culture. The islands reawaken Sacks's lifelong passion for botany in particular, for the primitive cycad trees, whose existence dates back to the Paleozoic and the cycads are the starting point for an intensely personal reflection on the meaning of islands, the dissemination of species, the genesis of disease, and the nature of deep geologic time.
Out of an unexpected journey, Sacks has woven an unforgettable narrative which immerses us in the romance of island life, and shares his own compelling vision of the complexities of being human.
"Magical... Sacks's fans are in for a treat." Kirkus
"Sacks's total immersion in islands life makes this luminous, beautifully written report a wonderous voyage of discovery. As a travel writer, Sacks ranks with Paul Theroux and Bruce Chatwin. As an investigator of the mind's mysteries, he is in a class by himself."Publishers Weekly
"Dr. Sacks's humane inquisitiveness lends a philosophical perspective to every threatening change. His scenes are stills from the moving picture of timeless evolution. And the way his subjects accept their fate redeems his story from gloom, even lending it a certain gaiety." Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times
"Sacks's fans are in for a treat: This is a magical medical mystery tour of South Sea islands that goes beyond the neurological lore to reveal the good doctor as historian, botanist, environmentalist, anthropologist, and, as always, caring human being." Kirkus Reviews
"A grand entertainment, a trove of learning. It is [Sacks's] combination of the artist's eye and the healer's touch that makes [his] work and the man himself so memorable. Unfailingly tolerant, open and curious, he humanizes everything he touches.... This makes him for many our prophet of understanding." Martin Levin, The Globe and Mail
"An explorer of that most wonderous of islands, the human brain," writes D.M. Thomas in the New York Times Book Review, "Oliver Sacks also loves the oceanic kind of islands." Both kinds figure movingly in this book part travelogue, part autobiography, part medical mystery story in which Sacks's journeys to a tiny Pacific atoll and the island of Guam become explorations of the time, and the complexities of being human.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -291) and index.
"An explorer of that most wondrous of islands, the human brain," writes D.M. Thomas in The New York Times Book Review, "Oliver Sacks also loves the oceanic kind of islands." Both kinds figure movingly in this book--part travelogue, part autobiography, part medical mystery story--in which Sacks's journeys to a tiny Pacific atoll and the island of Guam become explorations of the meaning of islands, the genesis of disease, the wonders of botany, the nature of deep geological time, and the complexities of being human.
About the Author
Oliver Sacks is a neurologist and author of seven books, including Awakenings, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and An Anthropologist on Mars. He lives on City Island in New York.