Hailed as "a writer of uncommon clarity" by the New Yorker, National Book Award finalist Allegra Goodman has dazzled readers with her acclaimed works of fiction, including such beloved bestsellers as The Family Markowitzand Kaaterskill Falls. Now she returns with a bracing new novel, at once an intricate mystery and a rich human drama set in the high-stakes atmosphere of a prestigious research institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Sandy Glass, a charismatic publicity-seeking oncologist, and Marion Mendelssohn, a pure, exacting scientist, are codirectors of a lab at the Philpott Institute dedicated to cancer research and desperately in need of a grant. Both mentors and supervisors of their young postdoctoral protégés, Glass and Mendelssohn demand dedication and obedience in a competitive environment where funding is scarce and results elusive. So when the experiments of Cliff Bannaker, a young postdoc in a rut, begin to work, the entire lab becomes giddy with newfound expectations. But Cliff's rigorous colleague-and girlfriend-Robin Decker suspects the unthinkable: that his findings are fraudulent.
There are more rats than those in the cages of the Massachusetts research laboratory at the center of Goodman's novel. Postdoctoral researcher Cliff may have fudged his amazing tumor-reducing results while his bosses are all too eager to capitalize on any discovery. Jenna Stern delivers a lively depiction of the high-pressure world of cancer research. Her narrative commences on a fairly even note and increases in intensity as Nobel Prize fantasies are dashed by congressional hearings and political realities. Stern does a particularly deft job with the heated interchange between Sandy Glass, a lab director, and an irate congressional panel. Stern does less well with Cliff, Robin and the other postdoctoral students at the heart of the story. They all sound remarkably alike, and Stern's voice is too mature for the 20-somethings. The weighted, even intonation is not the way Generation Y speaks-even the highly educated Ivy Leaguers on whom this novel is based. The abridgment is smoothly orchestrated with no noticeable jumps or gaps. Despite these relatively minor flaws, Intuition is an enjoyable light listen about a timely issue. Simultaneous release with the Dial Press hardcover (Reviews, Dec. 5, 2005). (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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The Dial Press
February 26, 2007
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Excerpt from Intuition by Allegra Goodman
All day the snow had been falling. Snow muffled every store and church; drifts erased streets and sidewalks. The punks at the new Harvard Square T stop had tramped off, bright as winter cardinals with their purple tufted hair and orange Mohawks. The sober Vietnam vet on Mass Ave had retreated to Au Bon Pain for coffee. Harvard Yard was quiet with snow. The undergraduates camping there for Harvard's divestment from South Africa had packed up their cardboard boxes, tents, and sleeping bags and begun building snow people. Cambridge schools were closed, but the Philpott Institute was open as usual. In the Mendelssohn-Glass lab, four postdocs and a couple of lab techs were working.
Two to a bench, like cooks crammed into a restaurant kitchen, the postdocs were extracting DNA in solution, examining cells, washing cells with chemicals, bursting cells open, changing cells forever by inserting new genetic material. They were operating sinks with foot pedals, measuring and moving solutions milliliter by milliliter with pipettes, their exacting eyedroppers. They were preparing liquids, ices, gels.
There was scarcely an inch of counter space. Lab benches were covered with ruled notebooks and plastic trays, some blue, some green, some red, each holding dozens of test tubes. Glass beakers stood above on shelves, each beaker filled with red medium for growing cells. The glass beakers were foil topped, like milk bottles sealed for home delivery. Peeling walls and undercounter incubators were covered with postcards, yellowing Doonesbury cartoons, photographs from a long-ago lab picnic at Walden Pond. The laminar flow hood was shared, as was the good microscope.