Red Wheelbarrow Book Reviews
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Intuitionby Allegra Goodman
“On the ground, in the lab, intuition was a restricted substance. Like imagination and emotion, intuition mislead researchers, leading to willful interpretations…
Robin had not conceived a scientific intuition in years… now, however, her intuition was quite clear.”
Marion Mendelssohn and Sandy Glass are directors of a cancer research lab in Cambridge, MA in 1985 when the lab still had a great reputation but was seriously low on funds. Money, or rather the lack of it, is behind the drama unfolding before us. The possibility of a breakthrough for one of the post-docs gives rise not only to hope and ambition, but also to jealousy and feeds the frenzy to perhaps rush the data to their conclusion before they are sufficiently dependable.
The people in the lab are a tight community with all the pride in a common cause and all the pitfalls of such a hothouse atmosphere. The novel is character based: each protagonist is as multi-layered as we find them in an old-fashioned novel: Sandy the father figure, the charismatic leader, oncologist and money getter for the lab, Marion his partner, the serious scientist in the enterprise who not only founded the lab but also knows that science alone will not procure grants or find brilliant students to do the work. Cliff, upon whom the sun shines as his work finds significant results and Robin who loves him but who is also a serious scientist with her own projects to pursue. We get to know a large cast of characters interdependent and complex. No simple answers here, but interlaced conjectures and proofs with counter proofs. The whole thing reads like a spy story. Wonderfully done.