From Lisa Tucker, the critically acclaimed author of Once Upon a Day and The Song Reader, comes an extraordinary novel about the way we live now: the choices we make and the decisions we let life make for us.
Matthew and Amelia were once in love and planning to raise a family together, but a decade later, they have become professional enemies. To Amelia, who has dedicated her life to medical ethics, Matthew's job as a high-powered pharmaceutical executive has turned him into a heartless person who doesn't care about anything but money. Now they're kept in balance only by Matthew's best and oldest friend, Ben, a rising science superstar -- and Amelia's new boyfriend.
That balance begins to crumble one night when, coming home to his upscale Philadelphia loft, Matthew finds himself on a desolate bridge face-to-face with a boy screaming for help. Homeless for most of his life, ten-year-old Danny is as streetwise as he is world-weary, and his desperation to save his three-year- old sister means he will do whatever it takes to get Matthew's help. What follows is an escalating game of one-upmanship between Matthew, Amelia, and Danny, as all three players struggle to defend what is most important to them -- and are ultimately forced to reconsider what they truly want.
Dazzlingly written with a riveting story that will resonate with readers everywhere, Lisa Tucker's The Cure for Modern Life is a smart, humorous, big-hearted novel about what it means in the twenty-first century to be responsible, to care about other people, and to do the right thing.
Starred Review. Tucker offers a cure for modern readers seeking an enjoyable literary page-turner that also explores serious social issues such as addiction, ethics and genetics. Tucker's fourth and most ambitious novel (following Once Upon a Day) is her first to have a male protagonist. Sardonic and emotionally aloof, Matthew Connelly directs his energies away from romantic entanglements and toward his work as an executive at pharmaceutical giant Astor-Denning. His bitter ex-girlfriend, Amelia, works as a medical ethics watchdog and is poised to take Matthew and his company down. But the appearance of homeless 10-year-old Danny and his toddler sister shakes up the lives of the combustible pair. In crisp, lively prose, Tucker cleverly executes a series of surprising twists that, coupled with the Big Pharma backdrop and cinematic feel, make the novel as fast-paced as a thriller, but with astute and often humorous observations about the shifting morality of 21st-century America. The relationship dilemmas at the center of this story make it an excellent choice for book clubs, but the novel should also increase Tucker's male readership and solidify her position as a gifted writer with a wide range and a profound sense of compassion for the mysteries of the human heart. (Mar. 25)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 24, 2008
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Excerpt from The Cure for Modern Life by Lisa Tucker
The Kindness of Strangers
Was Matthew Connelly a bad man? He'd never once asked himself that question. Make of it what you will. Of course it would have surprised him to know that, as he walked toward the bridge that night, a little boy was asking the question for him. Because Matthew didn't notice people like this boy, he never wondered what they were thinking about, or if they thought at all. They were as invisible as the ants he'd crushed under his feet as he walked through the streets of Grand Cayman the weekend before, with Amelia and Ben, the happy couple, deliriously grateful to have found each other, all demons of the past behind them -- and all thanks to him. His matchmaking was a good deed from their point of view, pure and simple. To Matthew it was something else entirely, something he didn't dwell on but accepted as another delicate operation in an extremely complex job.
The boy watching Matthew, who gave his name as Timmy or Jacob or Danny, depending on the situation, was only ten years old, but his mother said he was closer to forty in his harsh judgments of other people, by which she usually meant his harsh judgments of herself. And it was true; the boy took an almost instant dislike to Matthew Connelly. It wasn't just that the guy looked too young to be so filthy rich, with a fancy topcoat that had to cost more than it had cost to feed Isabelle for her entire life, or even that he was obviously in a hurry, striding up Walnut Street like he had somewhere important to be, though it was way past midnight. It wasn't even the loud, idiotic singing the man was indulging in as he walked, as though no one could possibly be outside on that frigid November night in Philadelphia except Connelly himself, who no doubt considered the journey a reason to pat himself on the back that he was always up for a little exercise. No, the real thing that condemned him, from the boy's perspective, was the position of his hands, which were jammed so far into his pockets that all you could see were the tops of what surely were the most luxurious leather gloves sold on the planet. So he wasn't cold, which meant there was only one reason his hands were like that. He was a selfish person, the kind who wouldn't lift a finger to help anyone else. The kind of person his mother called a "natural-born Republican bastard," even though she didn't believe in her son's hands theory, preferring instead the simpler principle that all rich people were bastards.
Still, the boy, who ended up naming himself Danny that night, had no choice; he had to try. He grabbed three-year-old Isabelle in his arms, groaning under her weight, and ran up the concrete stairs as fast as his scrawny ten-year-old legs would carry him. He had to be standing on the bridge when the man got there, blocking his path. As the guy came closer, Danny proceeded to yell and scream and cry: "Help! Please, mister! My baby sister! Help!"
The tears weren't real because he never cried, but the fear made his frozen hands shake harder. Isabelle had been throwing up all day and his mother had told him a million times that if you throw up for too long, you can die. Protecting Isabelle was his sacred duty and he would do it no matter what, even if he had to die himself. It was part of the code of honor he'd adopted a few months after his sister was born, when he'd sworn himself in as a knight. This was after he'd read a book about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, which his mother had stolen for him from the library, but he wasn't playing some stupid pretend game. Even the book said that knights weren't only in the past, and anyone could be one. True, the boy had never met another knight, but that wasn't surprising since knights had to sacrifice everything to uphold the code, and that was hard, even for him. But whenever he wanted to renounce his knighthood and go back to being a regular kid, he remembered his honor and how no one could take it away from him -- not his mother, not the cops, and certainly not this selfish asshole who wasn't going to stop, Danny knew, no matter how much he begged.
That Danny turned out to be wrong had nothing to do with his ability to judge men like Matthew Connelly. On that particular night, there was something about Matthew that even a very wise, very hardened ten-year-old boy/knight couldn't guess from the man's appearance. The rest, Danny had gotten right, uncannily so. It was true that Matthew was what most anybody would call rich, given his upper-six-figure salary; his stock options at Astor-Denning, the pharmaceutical company where he was a VP; the top-of-the-line Porsche 911 he'd bought with last year's bonus; his property investments across the city -- though he was leasing the loft where he'd lived for the last two years, an upscale but not intimidating place, perfect for his friendships with scientists. It was also true that he was walking quickly, not because he had a flight to Tokyo in the morning, which he'd put out of his mind, but because it felt good to move; not as wonderful as it had on the dance floor, but still good. The idiotic humming was a carry-away from the club he'd just left, a way of remembering the woman he might have taken home with him if this were a normal night, yet it had been anything but.