The advantages of being in a book club is not that you get to discuss the books you read, but the joy of finding new favorite-author-of-the-moment at higher frequencies. My usual M.O has been picking books off the library shelf guided by the cover art, title of the book or author name* . Reading reviews is pedantic, the ptch way is loads of fun. The only downside is laughing hysterically at bad writing and predictable plot lines can get exhausting pretty soon. Cue in book clubs with their hundred or so members with at least 30 book suggestions from people who have already done the research for you. So use the ptch M.O. on these books and you have just hit the jackpot. So, drumroll please, Allegra Goodman! With an “authorish” name like that, how can you possibly fail? The book club suggested “The cookbook collector” and serendipity gave me “Intuition” instead.
It is about a cancer research lab run by a basic scientist and a clinician, how the lab pines for breakthroughs in research and how it reacts when it is achieved. (If you want a better description of the story go here *). Although any good author can write accurately about something they haven’t experienced, to make it resonate with people who have experienced it is a remarkable feat indeed. Give this book to anybody working in experimental science (biology, physics, chemistry etc) and it is guaranteed to make them go ” I know exactly what she means” at least a dozen times throughout the book. The characters are not simply three-dimensional, they are plastic-glasses-darkened-theatre-hand-shooting-out-of-the-screen-grabbing-your-throat three-dimensional. And these are not just the main characters. No small character (nut-bolts as we used to say in high school) is small enough. Even a tertiary character like the clinician’s daughter’s boyfriend is realistic.
The whole story revolves around the hint of a suggestion of the possibility of malpractice. In each section that reveals one aspect of the big question, the reader makes up his mind about the answer to that question. By the time he is done with the next section he has made up his mind all over again to a different answer and so he goes back and forth until the end. This is one of those books that has an ending that can make or break it. Goodman makes sure it doesn’t. Go read it folks.
* Before you sneer at my m.o., my snobby nonexistent reader, let it be known that this is how I found “The Poisonwood Bible”, “The no.1 Ladies Detective Agency”, ” The Godfather of Kathmandu” to name just a few.
** If you prefer a more traditional review. The ones like those movie trailers that show you all the important sceens so you don’t have to watch the whole thing