CBR Bingo: True Story
What. A. Mesmerizing. Mess. I had only the most basic cliff noted exposure to the complete cluster that is Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, but like many things, the truth is indeed stranger than fiction. This is so cartoonish an outlandish tale that it seems to be an almost “ripped from the headlines” Law and Order style exposition: ready your popcorn, for this juicy and awful tale of lies and the downfall of genius in the healthcare industry.
Carreyrou is an impeccable researcher and journalist and his novel is gripping, though I did fall prey to skimming on occasion to get to the heart of the matter. The cast of characters is vast and intricate, so this is a book best absorbed quickly, lest you forget who worked where and when and had what dirt on the company. Elizabeth Holmes had a brilliant idea to revolutionize the healthcare industry with blood tests that only required one finger prick to provide patients and doctors with relevant and critical information. The only tiny problem was that, by all accounts, this wasn’t possible and the technology she was selling to investors and companies never worked. But Holmes never let a little thing like the facts slow her down. With a bevy of impressive financial backers and the eyes of the country upon this female trailblazer touted as the next Steve Jobs, she charged ahead leaving a trail of disgruntled employees and misled board members. Not to mention the COO, was her boyfriend, 20 years her senior, and an undisclosed secret to her board. And we haven’t even talked about the lawsuits, the families torn apart, the employees threatened be her attorneys, the paranoia, the forced pitch of her voice, and erroneous medical reports, fabrications for the FDA and on and on the circle goes.
I don’t want to say much more because half the “fun” of this is seeing how outlandish it all gets, but, you must remember that though an entertaining circus, this is real life. As Carreyrou covers in the epilogue, over promising and under-delivering isn’t a foreign tactic in silicone valley, but where Holmes veers is to have the gall to do so with healthcare, where people’s lives are at stake. With her trial happening summer 2020 and the movie upcoming starting Jennifer Lawrence, the story is still unfolding and this book will leave you informed, questioning, and wanting to know more.