Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady

The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady
Elizabeth Stuckey-French
Publisher: Doubleday (February 8, 2011)
4/5 stars
(Review based on reading of ARC from Amazon Vine Program.)

In the 1950's, Marylou Ahearn was the unwitting guinea pig in a radiation experiment that had a fatal outcome for her family. The project came to light during the Clinton Administration and now, at age 77, Marylou has decided to exact her revenge on the doctor in charge of the horrible project. She is, in fact, going to murder Dr. Wilson Spriggs.

It took her several years to finally track down Dr. Spriggs, but thanks to the miracle of the internet, she has found him living with his daughter and her family in Tallahassee, FL. So, to Tallahassee she goes, with murder on her mind, and cons her way into the very fabric of his family, with sometimes disastrous consequences and never with quite the results she imagined.

On the surface, The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady is a darkly humorous tale, but it goes much deeper than that. The author uses Marylou and her desire for revenge as a vehicle to explore the family of Dr. Spriggs--one which on the outside seems so perfectly typical, but on the inside, where none but the family can see. . . Well, it's really typical there too--full of miss-communication, heartbreak, love, adversity, disorder, and triumph, both small and earth-shatteringly large. In a word, they are EVERY family.

The novel itself is quite well written, with each chapter continuing on the story from the viewpoint of another character, either Marylou or a member of Dr. Spriggs' family. The characters are fresh, real and engaging. In Marylou, for example, Ms. Stuckey-French has created an appealing character, torn between her better nature and her desire for revenge. With Ava and Otis, as another example, she shows two different, yet similar, sides of Asperger's Syndrome with painful and amusing truthfulness. (As one intimately familiar with Asperger's Syndrome, I found her treatment refreshing: not sappy, not overly optimistic, just quite realistic.)

Overall, though it is touted as a "dark comedy" (and rightfully so), it is so much more than that. The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady is the tale of family triumph, and of how things never quite work out how we have them planned, and of how life is good--despite it all, life is good.

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