In the aftermath of a shattering illness, Lonni Sue Johnson—a renowned artist who regularly produced covers for The New Yorker, a gifted musician, a skilled amateur pilot, and a joyful presence to all who knew her—lives in a "perpetual now."
Lonni Sue has almost no memories of the past and a nearly complete inability to form new ones. Remarkably, however, she retains much of the intellect and artistic skills from her previous life. As such, Lonni Sue's story has become part of a much larger scientific narrative—one that is currently challenging traditional wisdom about how human memory and awareness are stored in the brain.
In this probing, compassionate, and illuminating book, award-winning science journalist Michael D. Lemonick tells the unique drama of Lonni Sue Johnson's day-to-day life and explains the groundbreaking revelations about memory, learning, and consciousness her unique case has uncovered. This is his nuanced and intimate look of the science that lies at the very heart of human nature.
About the Author
MICHAEL D. LEMONICK is the Chief Opinion Editor at Scientific American. He has written more than 50 Time magazine cover stories on science, and has written for National Geographic, The New Yorker and other publications. This is his seventh book.
“The story of Lonni Sue, one of the great experiments of nature, is intrinsically fascinating.” —Washington Post
“The Perpetual Now is an inspiring story of human resilience and scientific progress, a reminder that great triumphs are often borne of great tragedies. Expect an education in memory research, but also expect a gorgeous and memorable testament to the fact that we are far more than our memories.” —The Huffington Post
“An enthralling story of patience, determination and love, and a window into the emerging science of how the brain makes, stores and recalls memories. You'll never think about your own brain in the same way again.” —Dan Fagin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tom's River
“Through sharing Johnson’s compelling story, Lemonick delivers a fascinating lesson that deepens our appreciation for our own memories.” —Real Simple
“A well-researched, engaging and accessible combination of brain science and biography... Lemonick brilliantly employs this lens, placing Lonni Sue’s story in a personal and scientific context that keeps the reader engaged throughout...At once smart and approachable, “Lemonick delivers a finely observed profile of Lonni Sue Johnson.” —Scientific American
“Lemonick skillfully employs both a personal voice...and a scholarly authority as he travels through the incredible life of Lonnie Sue. His great accomplishment is helping us see the ‘new’ Lonni Sue as a most remarkable person. An absolutely memorable book.” —Kirkus, *starred*
“The story is fascinating, and Lemonick's prose is accessible and engaging...Eminently approachable...” —Library Journal
“A life-affirming exploration.... Lemonick’s prior connection to the Johnson family...combined with [his]personal delight at Johnson’s optimism and obsession with word puzzles and spontaneous bouts of song, bridges the gap between his interest in Johnson as a research topic and his affection for her as a human being. Fans of the late Oliver Sacks will appreciate the blend of heart and science in Lemonick’s account.”—Publishers Weekly
“A fascinating and poignant portrait...Lemonick’s compassionate look at illness, memory, and what it means to be human will appeal to Oliver Sacks fans.” —Booklist “The Perpetual Now is a fascinating and artful book that takes us deep into the most mysterious labyrinth in nature, the human brain. We meet Lonni Sue Johnson, an artist with profound amnesia, who lost her ability to form or recall memories, and we meet Johnson’s loving family and the scientists who have studied brain for many years, probing the mystery of memory.” —Richard Preston, New York Times bestselling author of The Hot Zone and The Wild Trees
“The Perpetual Now enhances not only our understanding of the brain but also our appreciation of human resilience.”—Katrina Firlik M.D., author of Another Day in the Frontal Lobe
“In The Perpetual Now, Michael D. Lemonick, the rare journalist and author who can weave a compelling narrative while unpacking complex science, tells Johnson's unexpectedly life-affirming story and, in doing so, explores what researchers know—and are continually learning—about human memory. With this book, as with all of Lemonick's books, I came away both moved by what I read, and smarter for having read it.” —Jeffrey Kluger, Editor at Large of Time magazine andauthor of Apollo 13