From Publishers Weekly
Dr. Henry Moss, the protagonist of Byers's compassionate, richly detailed debut novel (after an acclaimed short story collection, The Coast of Good Intentions), is a gentle, committed physician who studies a rare syndrome that causes rapid aging and premature death in children. While treating two sons from the same family who are both stricken with the syndrome, Moss discovers the holy grail of the medical profession, a blood mutation that has the potential to arrest the human aging process. On the one hand, the use of his discovery might tangle him in severe ethical dilemmas, and perhaps even cost Moss his license. On the other hand, he could make a lot of money. Byers cleverly sets his tale in late-1990s Seattle, at the height of the dot-com craze; the good doctor, like most everyone around him, is far from oblivious to the immense financial reward his discovery might bring him. With infinite tiny, prosaic and precise brush strokes, Byers depicts not only this riveting dilemma but also Moss's relationship with his family: his wry, critical Austrian wife, Ilse, his clownish, good-hearted 14-year-old son, Darren, and his 17-year-old daughter, Sandra, a talented basketball player who falls in love with a black player on a boys' team. These characterizations are so vivid and convincing that they are nearly hyper-real, as if Byers had set his protagonists under a microscope. Herein lies the book's great strength: while lesser writers would probably allow the compelling plot to dominate the narrative, Byers takes equal time to deliver a sympathetic but unflinching portrait of the American middle class and its discontents, brilliantly capturing the texture of late-20th-century life and the innate decency and fallibility of human beings trying to cope with its challenges.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Altruism allies with greed in this novel set in Seattle, Washington, during the boom days before the technology bubble burst. Henry Moss, a medical researcher, discovers a genetic anomaly that promises a treatment for a rare syndrome and implies a major breakthrough in the study of the aging process. Plots and subplots revolve around Henry's decision to administer an untested enzyme to a dying 14-year-old, hopefully prolonging his life, and to market the genetic information to a biotech company. But, as good as the plotting is--and, despite a few dangling threads and red herrings, it is very good--the well-developed characters and richly described setting distinguish this book and linger in the reader's memory. Henry's wife, Ilse, and his children, Sandra and Darren, are especially well drawn. Byers' short story collection, The Coast of Good Intentions (1998), promised much of what his first novel delivers: solid plotting, lovingly developed characters, and thoughtful exploration of social and cultural issues. Librarians should note that this unusually accomplished first novel will appeal to fans of Richard Russo. Ellen Loughran
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