It’s a common enough scenario: A woman decides she would like to have a baby. She realizes after some time trying that she is not succeeding. Fertility specialists are consulted, and she finds that it is not possible for her to get pregnant in a traditional manner.
It is at this point of the scenario that Mary Modern veers far away from anything remotely common. The main character of the novel is Lucy, a genetic researcher who knows more than any other infertile woman about how to make a baby.
Instead of continuing on with the fertility-doctor course, Lucy retreats to the basement of her family’s old mansion. Her father had fitted it out as a laboratory, and she has used it since his death to continue the research. Now she retreats there to clone an embryo of her grandmother, Mary, and she implants the embryo in her own womb. That’s when things really start to get interesting.
Mary Modern is a fascinating novel that weaves elements of suspense, science fiction, politics and ethics, quirky humor, and even a little horror into a tale of family and relationships. It is often outrageous and on the fringe; yet it is thought-provoking and very human. DeAngelis literally brings to life two women from different times who react to their current incarnations very differently. Her characters are fully three-dimensional, not just representations to carry out bioethical scenarios.
I found that once I started, I couldn’t put down the novel. Its twists and turns kept me turning the pages, wondering what would come next — and even when I suspected certain surprises, I still was impatient to know how and why these twists were brought to pass — the plot and sideplots and all the details are simply ingeniously put together. DeAngelis succeeds in creating a brilliant novel that cannot be easily categorized but is its own compelling hybrid of genres, certainly not a clone of anything I have yet read.
Rated: Moderate, for three usages of strong language; about 15 occurrences of moderate language; about 10 uses of mild language; some instances of using the Lord’s name in vain; some mild sexual scenes/references.