A Novel

Book - 2006
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Hailed as "a writer of uncommon clarity" by theNew Yorker, National Book Award finalist Allegra Goodman has dazzled readers with her acclaimed works of fiction, including such beloved bestsellers asThe Family MarkowitzandKaaterskill 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. As Robin makes her private doubts public and Cliff maintains his innocence, a life-changing controversy engulfs the lab and everyone in it. With extraordinary insight, Allegra Goodman brilliantly explores the intricate mixture of workplace intrigue, scientific ardor, and the moral consequences of a rush to judgment. She has written an unforgettable novel. From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: New York : Dial Press, 2006
ISBN: 9780385336123
Branch Call Number: GOO
Characteristics: 344 p. ;,25 cm


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geezr_rdr May 10, 2013

This is well written and reasonable description of the personalities comprising the medical research community. It by no means overstates the competition for government, industry and foundation money and peer/public recognition.

sheilahamanaka Feb 28, 2013

This novel won't give you much feeling for the hundreds of mice who are sacrificed in its pages, but it will consume you with the trials and tribulations - great and small - of the white-coated and white-privileged professionals who inhabit the world of science. At first read you might think you are getting a real insider view, but in the end, I realized I had suffered the limitations of the author's privileged upbringing. One comes away with the "balanced view" that might be offered by mainstream TV: no hard fact-finding fingers get pointed at the Cancer industry, at Big Pharma, at corporate control of education. Instead, the finger wags at the pressure to publish, the pressure to succeed. We get an up close and personal view of the individual players, and are impressed with the role of "character" - of how this determines your actions. Goodman (who never questions why her world is so white) wield's a palette of characters neatly limited to a slice of middle and upper class people (with a few happy foreigners thrown in.) Good people prevail and competition between rival labs ultimately self-corrects the excesses of individuals. "Politics" is limited to a hearing on the Hill, and the writer avoids the deeper politics of the billions spent on cancer research. (Which is sort of like researching how to clean a river whilst pooping in it)... that is to say, we know what causes cancer (like, atomic bombs and Agent Orange, for starters) so why not ban the causes first, rather than spend billions on a cure? (This would also prevent the suffering of billions of lab animals, too.) Besides, Intuition notwithstanding, most cancer research is not aimed at finding a cure for cancer but rather at finding drugs that will alleviate the life-threatening side effects of other cancer drugs. Intuition is a nicely detailed soap opera that fails readers who are interested in the bigger picture.

jeanner222 Feb 27, 2013

Our story begins in Cambridge, MA, land of the brains. We meet our researchers in the Mendelssohn-Glass lab at the Philpott Institute. Our researchers/postdocs are busy, and the lab directors, Marion Mendelssohn and Sandy Glass, have high hopes for them.

The research game is intense, and no one knows this better than Robin and Cliff, both postdocs at the lab. Robin’s been at the lab for years, working on a project that is going nowhere. Cliff’s latest cancer research seems promising, and that’s where the trouble starts. . .

Questionable data and procedures are Robin’s problem with Cliff’s “successful” research. When she approaches Marion and Sandy with her concerns, she is rebuffed. And when she takes those concerns to a higher authority, all hell breaks loose in the lab community.

Intuition is, at its heart, about scientific discovery and its trials and tribulations. It is about the responsibilities of the researchers and the morality of the researchers. Several characters are tested in these areas, and they fail miserably.

I was engrossed in this story until the end. The end, I felt, was a bit of a disappointment, but it is probably more realistic than I would want to admit. Still, it’s a novel worth reading.

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