four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
22-May-June-2006
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0

A-IntuitionAt the Philpott Institute, a small cancer research lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, postdoc researcher Cliff makes an amazing breakthrough: he discovers that the R-7 virus has reversed cancer growth in mice. Or so he thinks. When oncologist Sandy Glass sidesteps protocol and publishes Cliff’s preliminary results despite the warning of Philpott’s codirector, Marion Mendelssohn, the stakes become high. Robin, Cliff’s ex-girlfriend and colleague, attempts to disprove Cliff’s results, while Cliff cries innocent. Soon, unwanted controversy for the grants-driven lab threatens its very existence.
Dial Press. 345 pages. $25. ISBN: 0385336128

Boston Globe 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Her third novel is her best book yet: a brainy comedy of manners that deals with a subject of high contemporary relevance, is scrupulously researched, and—more to the point—enacted by a sizable cast of complicated and intriguing characters. … Goodman’s great gift is her ability to sense and dramatize the goodness—sometimes the nobility—in characters lesser writers might merely satirize." Bruce Allen

Entertainment Weekly 4.5 of 5 Stars
"[W]hile you can get thundering courtroom action from John Grisham and Law & Order reruns, what you won’t often find is such a delicate analysis of how an ethics scandal filters through the sensibility of brilliant and brilliantly realized characters. It’s a tricky operation that Goodman performs with the precision of a scientist, and the flair of an artist at the top of her game." Jennifer Reese

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Intuition moves with a measured grace that calls to mind both Greek tragedy and the slow, exacting rhythms of scientific research itself. … This is a novel not merely about questions of integrity in one lab, or even merely about science, but also about the depth of our commitment to and desire for work and discovery." Emily Barton

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"With its crisp, Austen-like title and isolated setting of a scientific research laboratory, Intuition shrewdly invokes both a long-standing sense of realism and the largesse of our future choices. … Sometimes the [narrative] shifts are so quick and dramatic, they underscore the murder-mystery-like feel of suspense in the novel, complete with a large cast of characters and a narrator who knows it all but chooses carefully what to reveal." Christine Thomas

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Just when we think we know her self-promoting, hard-charging oncologist Sandy Glass, just when we are smirking contemptuously at him, Goodman peels back another layer and invites us to peer harder. … Goodman’s scientists come to realize that it is in the uncalibrated realm of human relationships that greatness may be germinated or crushed." Geraldine Brooks

Baltimore Sun 3 of 5 Stars
"Intuition is the linchpin of the novel. … Intuition leads these characters astray, but it also motivates them to succeed. It drives them to hunches that just might work, but it simultaneously pushes them away from the empirical thinking necessary for accurate science." Diane Scharper

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
"The absolute truth, she implies, is less important than the relative truth … Goodman is mixing up the novel’s messages, and doing this so vigorously that her moral compass seems to spin around, depolarized." Sue Halpern

Critical Summary

The author of the National Book Award finalist Kaaterskill Falls (1998) and the critically acclaimed Total Immersion (1989) and The Family Markowitz (1996) has written another gripping novel. In this issue-driven drama told through multiple perspectives, Goodman probes the commitment to scientific discovery and the desire for success. Keeping situations morally ambiguous, Goodman introduces characters whose intuitions guide them through all-too-plausible dilemmas. A few critics disagreed about Robin’s characterization and her tit-for-tat actions; others cited the theme of intuition as overbearing. Yet all agreed that Goodman provides a rare insider’s look at a research lab’s subculture—and human survival.

Also by the Author

Kaaterskill Falls (1998): Each summer a small Orthodox Jewish sect migrates to Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskills. Goodman chronicles two years in their lives, examining their faith, their relationships, and their growing effect on the Yankee families around them.