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Greenleaf Book Group
Service Provider
The Panacea Project
Reviews
This polished medical thriller centers on Calla Hammond, a library assistant with the skin condition vitiligo, a young woman who grew up in foster homes who has lived a quiet life with few friends because she’s never really felt like she fits in. When she collapses one day at her job, her life changes forever. The brain tumor she’s initially diagnosed with somehow disappears prior to surgery, leading to an ambitious physician’s conviction that he’s stumbled onto the gold mine he’s been waiting for in Calla—her body literally has the ability to cure her cancer. Debut author Johnson explores the possibility of that miracle cure and all the consequences that come with it, as Calla’s life is irrevocably altered.

Johnson crafts a medically savvy novel that feels deeply real as it explores what might happen to someone capable of treating and potentially curing one of the world’s deadliest diseases. As the possibility of a quiet, private life disappears almost overnight, Calla’s safety and security are constantly threatened in tense, crisply written scenes. As she faces manipulation and coercion from the outside world, Calla starts to enjoy the experience of the family she never had—aside from her former social worker, Rae—in the people who have now become part of her daily life, though even within that close circle she faces constant betrayals, as they look for money, fame, and a cure. When Calla is kidnapped from the hospital, she is forced to rely on new and old allies alike if she ever expects to get free.

Fans of medical thrillers and engaging female protagonists will appreciate Johnson’s realistic examination of the different ways people can benefit from using Calla, with both selfish and altruistic intentions. The story’s also more humane than some thrillers, featuring well-meaning people who befriend Calla and never expect anything more from her than time and friendship. In an era where medicine and vaccines are hotly debated, this well-written and thoughtful story will inspire both hope and terror about what the future holds.

Takeaway: The cure for cancer residing inside a woman’s cells brings out the best and worst in society.

Great for fans of: Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Megan Abbott’s The Fever.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

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