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The Secret Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 30, 2002


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Hardcover, Bargain Price, September 30, 2002
$13.04 $2.68

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586481509
  • ASIN: B000ENBPSO
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,700,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Can a clone contain a new human soul or just a photocopy? Hoffman brilliantly meditates on this mystery in her auspicious fiction debut as she examines the bond between Iris and Elizabeth Surrey, which gives new meaning to the well-worn term "my mother myself." Iris's search for identity begins when the teen discovers her birth in 2005 was achieved via cloning. Iris's single mom, Elizabeth, fled Manhattan to the Midwest to rear Iris after becoming estranged from her parents and sister. They live a quiet, symbiotic life until Iris turns 12 and her mother falls in love with Steven, a professor, who becomes disturbed by the unnatural closeness of the two and leaves. It's not long before Iris, in a tailspin of heart-wrenching confusion, flees home to see if she is more than just an extension of someone who is "not quite a mother and more than one: home, sibling, the larger part of myself, as much me as my limbs or bloodstream." Unraveling the secret of self takes her on a quest not easily ended. The relentless first-person viewpoint showcases the emotional and spiritual ramifications of being a cloned child: "I was her, I was her, I was her... Then who was I, who was she, what had she done? Did she steal my soul, my very self, or did she give me her own, by an unspeakable act of black magic?" Some SF readers may find the philosophical musings old hat, but wiser ones won't.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The time is 2022, the place is Chicago, and Iris Surrey has an unusually close relationship with her chilly mother, Elizabeth. At 17, Iris is wearying of the odd stares she triggers in others, especially when her look-alike mother is with her. Iris wants to learn the identity of her father, which, alas, is not possible; the reader will figure out before Iris does that she is the product of genetic engineering. When Iris uncovers the truth, she goes on an emotional rampage, intent on tracking down any blood relatives in the hope that they will make her feel more authentic. The results are painful, for Iris's kin are unable to embrace what they see as an uncanny freak of science. It is only through a relationship with a sympathetic young man that Iris finds respite. Those who shrug off today's headlines regarding imminent human cloning would be wise to read this thoughtful, philosophical treatment of the devastating effects a wholly fatherless state can trigger. An uneasy look at the potential fallout from biological tampering, this first novel by nonfiction author Hoffman (Shtetl) is ripe for lively book discussion. One minor quibble: British spellings abound, which can be disconcerting, given the setting. Still, very much recommended.
Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I wanted to read this because it is part of a mini-genre that interests me - social science fiction (I have never seen that phrase anywhere before). These are stories that begin with a sci-fi premise of some kind, and then look at how people might react and live with the new situation. This kind of thing sometimes gets called speculative fiction. To a certain extent, all sci-fi is like this, but in this kind of story, human emotions predominate. This book looks at cloning, and imagines what might happen if a successful, independent woman has herself cloned, and then raises her "child" in an isolated environment.

This book did have a lot of interesting moments, and I read it through to the end. I think it would be a good read for young women, because it deals primarily with the issue of severing the bond between mother and daughter and beginning adulthood. Iris grows up in a small town in Ohio. Her mother keeps aloof from the local community, and tells her nothing about her parentage. She also keeps her away from her grandparents and aunt, all of whom were against the idea of the cloning. She and her mother have a positive, symbiotic relationship for the most part, but when Iris starts getting too curious, then the trouble starts.

Iris turns out to be just as tough and independent as her clone-mother, and eventually turns on her with a vengeance. There are some interesting moments as she goes, unannounced, to visit relatives. There follow scenes of life in New York, with identity shifting clubs, squatters camps, and genetic modifiers. But things are still very grounded in contemporary reality. One of my favorite scenes takes place when Iris goes to visit an organic art workshop.

This was not a great book, but it was an interesting one - not sorry I read it.
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Format: Paperback
Set in the near future of the 2020's, "The Secret" probes the endless question of whether nature or nurture is the driving force behind personhood. Iris Surrey is a clone, but growing up in the isolated world her mother has created for her in a midwest town, it is not until she is in her teens that she discovers the truth about that vague feeling she calls the "weirdness." Iris has a profound bond with her beautiful mother, but as a child has no way of knowing that this is unusual or odd. But as her questions about her father become insistent in her own mind, and the tiny world of their home is disturbed by her mother's lover Stephen, Iris rifles through files and records to find the mystery of her birth.

The informations sends her reeling in a storm of self-doubt, hatred of her mother, and agony over whether she is a real person or just a copy. Iris seeks out her mother's family, and painfully realizes that they're unable to see her as anything other than stark evidence of Elizabeth's shocking act. Only by separating from Elizabeth does she come to know that her unique history and experiences shape her as much as her genes do.

I found the premise of the book fascinating, but sympathize with readers who say it goes on and on--it does. We "know" the secret in the first chapter--it's completely obvious--but Hoffman spends more time than necessary detailing Iris' search for it herself. And it wasn't credible that Iris would not have developed and noticed some traits different from her mother's even given how sheltered she was. Scientific theory swings back and forth on the issue of whether nature or nurture is more important--at the moment the genes seem to be winning. But no matter what side of the issue you're on, no one thinks clones could ever be exact replicas.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Roy Staples on April 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
The Secret is about ..... well, it's not really a secret, is it? You would have to be an idiot not to learn what the secret is in the first chapter or two. Mostly because the protagonist mentions it as something really horrible! (Anyone living through the current backlash against genetic science will end up guessing it right quick).

But does knowing the secret take the wind out of your sails? No, it's not a detective novel. Those who find it boring find it so because they can't relate to the main character, a young woman. Those that can relate do enjoy the book. I was interested in how she unravels the knowledge herself, and what she does with that knowledge.

The book is philosophical, though not pedantic. If you like reading introspective stories, and literature that makes you use your head (and exercise your emotions), you'll enjoy "The Secret".

A good read!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The subject of Eva Hoffman's book, The Secret, is certainly thought provoking. The question of how an individual can cope with the fact of being a clon can be fascinating. The situation of mother and daughter so much alike raises interesting psychological situations.
Ms. Hoffman in her book touches all the right problems, but somehow she leaves it all on the surface, never daring to explore the emotions of the characters in deep.
The book feels more like an account of events in the life of the heroine and it never reaches the level of a great novel.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jayelle Silverman on October 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I was so disapointed in this book. I bought it because the blurb sounded good. I also figured out the plot from about page two on. I also scanned the second half of the book just to finish it. I felt like the author truly believed I was entranced with this novel enough to not know "The Secret" until she reveals it.

The major element wrong here is this is a 10 page short story with a great idea that was stretched out over 200 pages plus with way too much filler. The Sci-fi aspect is well written, however, it it is obvious the writer leaps around in her "future" adaptation without clear, concise direction. I am also distracted by the use of the term "Mummy" for a mother figure when this book is set in the USA.

The format in which this book was written and worded reminds me of a kid writing a 500 word essay using the word "very" 400 times. How many ways can you say Iris Surrey's Secret was a problem? The author knows her way around a Thesaurus. I won't buy anything else by her, or see "Lost in Translation".
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