a mystery featuring in vitro fertilization, a novel about theatrical ambition, and a book about Jonestown. Also check out the summer reading game where I’ll be posting reviews weekly.
A Perilous Conception by Larry Karp
This is a murder mystery set in the early experimental days of in vitro fertilization. The author, a doctor, knows whereof he writes. Pacific Northwest setting. There's a dogged gumshoe, Baumgartner, who keeps pursuing the case after higher ups want to hush it up. There's medical rivalry and hospital politics. I found the writing a little clunky but was intrigued by the plot and the well-documented scientific material.
Broadway Baby by Alan Shapiro
Oh the pain of dreams gone sour and an ill-considered marriage. But Miriam Bluestein is determined to live out her performing fantasies somehow. One child, Ethan, shows some talent so she railroads him into a stage career with lackluster results. Julie, the daughter, pulls away. Sam, the youngest, grows up to be a poet. Miriam's chilly, stylish mother, Tula, owns a dress shop. Age, of course, comes calling, with reduced circumstances, various deaths and decrepitude. But the book ends with a surprising epiphany in which Miriam rises to true generosity of spirit. Gossipy, atmospheric, generation spanning.
A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres
Subtitled: the untold story of hope, deception, and survival at Jonestown. A horror story, start to finish, though Scheeres tries to humanize it by showing how various participants got involved. It's hard now for me to imagine Jim Jones attracting anyone. (He got so weird so fast.) But his vision of blacks and whites together in an all-embracing climate of sharing reached many desperate folks. I loved Scheeres’ first book, Jesus Land, a memoir. This one was hard to take but I persevered in part because I'm fascinated by what happens when the unbelievable actually occurs.
Back in a couple of weeks…