Cover Image: Lakewood


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Member Reviews

When I finished this book, all I could think about were the experimentations that were forced upon black men in the Tuskegee experiment of untreated sphyilis in black men. Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male was a clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service. The study initially involved 600 black men – 399 with syphilis, 201 who did not have the disease. The study was conducted without the benefit of patients’ informed consent. Researchers told the men they were being treated for “bad blood,” a local term used to describe several ailments, including syphilis, anemia, and fatigue. In truth, they did not receive the proper treatment needed to cure their illness. In exchange for taking part in the study, the men received free medical exams, free meals, and burial insurance. Although originally projected to last 6 months, the study actually went on for 40 years.

Lakewood is reminiscent of how the government and/or entities like the government entice the poor, minority, disadvantaged, underserved community of people into "research studies" to glean medical research without telling the willing participants what the research is supposed to truthfully do or not do. The people, unfortunately get sucked in by the promise of benefits that they would not ordinarily be able to obtain because of their socioeconomic status in life. 

The story is told from the perspective of Lena, who has just recently lost her grandmother to cancer and now has to take on the financial responsibilities of her disabled mother. Her mother, who does not have healthcare insurance and needs her much needed medication, Lena, decides to sign up for a research studies program that guarantees her healthcare coverage and enough money to be able to support herself and her mother. However, Lena cannot disclose this program or its details to anyone, and she has to lie to everyone about what she's doing in order to stay in the program and reap the benefits. She is told: "You give of yourself to make your country a better place. You give of yourself to keep us safe." However, Lena knows something isn't right. 

I was curious to find out everything that was happening with the participants. When Lena decided to run away from the studies, I was shocked to find out what happened to the town of Lakewood. The company/research people just up and closed shop as if nothing had ever happened. The people she had been with for months were gone, as if they almost had never existed. I thought to myself whether or not that the experiments actually happened or was this something that Lena had made up in her mind.  However, she did make some money while she was there, so it had to happen, right? I also was curious to know that all 3 of the generations from Lena's family participated in the studies, which may have been the cause of her grandmother's cancer and her mother's disability. I also appreciated the fact that the later part of the book is told in letters to her friend Tanya. However, I am not sure whether her and Tanya become close friends again once she leaves the studies or not, as there is no closure or ending to signify whether she goes back to her life as she used to know it or not.  It leaves the door open for interpretation for the reader as to what happens to Lena after all this is over. 

This book was eerie and spooky. To think that our US government could be performing research studies to test medications, side effects, untreated diseases or worse on people is beyond my own understanding. However, the US government has done this before on more than one occasion. We are just now publicly acknowledging the vast effects and benefits that Henrietta Lacks and her uninformed consent of the harvesting of her cervical cancer cells did for modern medicine. Her family has yet to see any financial recoupment for the taking of her cells and the advances medicine has made because of the illegal harvesting of her cells. 

This book was hair raising, spooky, eerily familiar and fascinating. I would definitely recommend reading this book when it hits the shelves. Don't miss out! Rating 4/5.
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When Lena Johnson’s beloved grandmother dies, and the full extent of the family debt is revealed, the black millennial drops out of college to support her family and takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan.

On paper, her new job is too good to be true. High paying. No out of pocket medical expenses. A free place to live. All Lena has to do is participate in a secret program—and lie to her friends and family about the research being done in Lakewood. An eye drop that makes brown eyes blue, a medication that could be a cure for dementia, golden pills promised to make all bad thoughts go away.

The discoveries made in Lakewood, Lena is told, will change the world—but the consequences for the subjects involved could be devastating. As the truths of the program reveal themselves, Lena learns how much she’s willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family.- Goodreads

I was disappointed in this book. There is really no other way to say it. I love the fact that this book tackles a topic that in my experience a lot of Black families have discussed and that is participating in research studies. Growing up my family was straight against it. There were reports of organ robbing, Black women being sterilized, or their DNA being stolen. From selling your eggs to participating in a sleep study, I found that my family was not the only family that was completely against any form of research study, no matter how much it cost. 

Because of this, I was extremely interested in the book and I was fully invested into the book until about 30% in when it started to fade. I completely understand that this book has a lot to build on (and trust me it was building) but you can't start at a high and the drop. By 30% of the book things should be at least picking up not going on a down slope. 

There is a lot of repetition in this book and there is suppose to be this nagging fear even as Lena agrees to do the study but it never comes. The big shock factor was really there. But speaking of Lena, girl has no personality and I was confused by her. What I was confused about was not why she wanted/needed to do this study but she reacted to things in the weirdest way. She was socially awkward, angry, frustrated and confused her own freaking self most of the time. There was nothing connecting me to her in a way that I can say that I feel for her. Because I actually didn't.  

I wish there was more drama, more personality from Lena, more suspense and just way more going on. 


2 Pickles
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