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Behave Hardcover – March 1, 2016
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(In)famous psychologist John Watson—the founder of the school of behaviorism--penned a popular parenting guide in 1928 that warned against the perils of…showing affection toward your children! Society is cruel, you see, so if you coddle your kids they will be ill-prepared to face life’s challenges, or so his theory went. To what degree did Watson’s wife and the mother of his children agree? Andromeda Romano-Lax’s slyly provocative historical novel, Behave, answers this question, which isn’t clear-cut despite the fact that said spouse, Rosalie Rayner, was also Watson’s research associate, an active participatant in not only the writing of Psychological Care of Infant and Child, but Watson’s controversial “Little Albert” experiment (Google it—it’s the stuff of dystopian nightmares). This novel also grapples with some very modern conundrums. Rayner was obviously learned and ambitious in her own right, but felt pressured to put her career aside to advance her husband’s, and to raise their children in such a way as to prove his veracity as an expert in child development (and therefore be complicit if he wasn’t). Behaving, staying in “one’s place,” isn’t always the best thing, and Romano-Lax’s fascinating characterization of this complex woman will have you empathizing with Rayner despite yourself. You’ll want to hug your kids extra tight after reading it. --Erin Kodicek
Praise for Behave
An April 2016 IndieNext Pick
A Top 10 Amazon Editor's Pick
"Rayner could not have found it easy to be exiled from the lab, or to raise her sons according to a behaviorist program, which regards 'mother love,' as the real Rayner put it, as 'an instrument which may inflict a never-healing wound.' This novel suggests the pain of wanting, and failing, to behave."
—The New York Times Book Review
"Offers a rich and nuanced glimpse of Rosalie Rayner, the woman behind John B. Watson, the man who founded the psychological theory of behaviorism. The ethical issues presented here are both shocking and thought-provoking; and the intimate struggles of a woman weighing her value, utility, and satisfaction both within and outside the home certainly resonate today."
—The Boston Globe
"If you want an engaging read which will not only entertain you but also teach you a great deal about these giants in the history of psychology, and the ethics of those times which we now see as abhorrent, I recommend Behave!"
"Although this book is a fictional biography of Rosalie Rayner Watson, readers can learn what a brilliant, complex woman Rosalie was, how influential her work with John Watson was, and how her contributions have been lost in her famous husband’s shadow."
"A fascinating woman who unfortunately slipped through the cracks of history . . . Romano-Lax does her well-deserved justice through this heartfelt and intricate story."
"A novel to be savored and shared."
"[An] incredible book."
"This is a book well set in its era. Historical details are plentiful and interesting, bringing the 1920s and '30s to vivid life, not only in setting, but also in attitudes."
—Historical Novel Society
"Scorching . . . By detailing how the study of human behavior differs from understanding people, and how smart women can miss the obvious and make mistakes, Romano-Lax sheds a harsh yet deeply moving light on feminism and psychology, in theory and in practice."
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"Fascinating . . . Romano-Lax writes compellingly about science and the Jazz Age."
"Rayner finally has the spotlight in this compelling fictional memoir."
“A fascinating exploration of ethical and psychological unraveling. Behave carefully excavates the plight of one of science’s forgotten women to create a tale of ambition, love, and the fears that shape us all. With the skill and confidence of a master, Andromeda Romano-Lax crafts a deeply personal narrative of a complex woman who lived in history’s gaps. Quite simply, I tore through this book and so should you.”
—Erika Swyler, author of The Book of Speculation
“A fabulous novel that brings Rosalie Rayner to life, allowing us to sympathize with someone caught in the whirlwind of her times, as well as John Watson, a man cursed, condemned to forever run from his own emotions. Ms. Romano-Lax’s novel commendably sticks close to the available facts. Behave invites us to explore a lifetime of questions about science, ethics, motherhood, sexual attraction, and love.”
—Hall P. Beck, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Appalachian State University and author of Finding Little Albert
"Of interest to anyone curious about Watson and the history of psychology. Andromeda Romano-Lax does well to place John B. Watson in the context of of the conflict between eugenics and environmentalism, consciousness versus behaviorism, and the rise of advertising and consumer culture. She draws the reader in with details such as the nature of fear-based adcampaigns. She teaches behaviorism and does it well."
—Ben Harris, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, University of New Hampshire
"I loved Behave: a rich and nuanced glimpse of the woman (Rosalie Raynor) behind the man (John B. Watson) who founded behaviorism. The ethical issues presented are both shocking & thought-provoking, and the intimate struggles of a woman weighing her value, utility & satisfaction both within and outside the home certainly resonate today. Beautifully written and meticulously researched, this is a novel to be savored and shared. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to read it early. I can hardly wait to put it into the hands of customers."
—Tova Beiser, Brown University Bookstore, Providence, RI
"This is an interesting and educational look at the beginnings of behaviorism and the unique relationship between the two people who pioneered it. Behave is thought-provoking and certainly promotes reflection on the tenets of child rearing. An enjoyable read!"
—Stephanie Crowe, Page and Palette, Fairhope, AL
"I very much enjoyed reading Romano-Lax's fictionalized account of Rosalie Rayner Watson's life. Romano-Lax offers an empathetic and insightful look into the heart of a complex and conflicted woman as she tries to forge new roles in society, academia, and business as a scholar, wife, scientist, and mother. I found the parallel of Rosalie's internal conflict between tradition and modernity with the fragmented social backdrop of the Roaring 20s to be particularly compelling. Many of the issues that Romano-Lax touches upon in Behave—feminism, research ethics, work-life balance, consumerism—will resonate deeply with modern readers. Fans of biography or history of science, as well as readers who enjoy a novel with strong historical context and deep moral conflict are certain to enjoy in Romano-Lax's newest novel."
—Jennifer Gromada, Labyrinth Books, Princeton, NJ
"With vivid description, Romano-Lax introduces Rosalie Rayner Watson, an intelligent, ambitious woman overshadowed throughout history by her husband, famous psychologist John B. Watson. Behave is engaging from the start and Rosalie is a fascinating at its center. Her life of passions, scandal, and regret will hold you riveted."
—Tarah Jennings, Mitzi’s Books, Rapid City, SD
"Romano-Lax is so skillful at drawing you into the world of the famous behaviorist John Watson and his wife, Rosalie, that you feel like you're watching a slow motion train wreck—horrified by the approaching disaster, but unable to look away. On every page, you're silently screaming at Rosalie, 'Don't open that door!'"
—Laura Keys, A Capella Books, Atlanta, GA
"Rosalie Rayner Watson will alternately grab your heart and make you furious—sometimes in the same chapter. This imagined life of this early twentieth century scientist and her lover, the great psychologist John Watson is a great addition to your historical fiction shelf."
—Valerie Koehler, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, TX
"Behave is a novel based on the life of Rosalie Rayner who with John B. Watson conducted numerous experiments on babies in their efforts to popularize behaviorist psychology. Their scandalous relationship and methods of research will provide strong opportunities for discussion in book clubs."
—Elizabeth Merritt, Titcomb's Bookshop, East Sandwich, MA
"Andromeda Romano-Lax presents readers with a glimpse of the 'woman behind the man.' This book proves Romano-Lax’s talent for spot-on character development and impeccable pacing. Readers may find they dislike John Watson intensely, but they will savor this story. Women’s book clubs must pick this up!"
—Nancy Simpson-Brice, Book Vault, Oskaloosa, IA
"Behave is a fascinating portrait of cold psychological breakthroughs made by scientists more human than they’d care to admit, even to themselves. Like Stoner, it is a beautiful tale of quietly violent emotions straining against tempered times."
—Thomas Wickersham, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
Praise for Andromeda Romano-Lax
“An impressive and richly atmospheric debut.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Ambitious and atmospheric.”
“The ethical issues of [The Detour] are thought-provoking, contrasting the artistic perfection of classical sculpture with basic human values. Ultimately, the sculpture itself provides the answer. Just as the discus thrower leans to balance the weight of the outstretched arm and the heavy disc, Ernst must learn to balance his love for classical art with personal morality; to reach for love, even while acknowledging it is more than any of us deserve.”
“Romano-Lax is singularly gifted: she creates full-fledged, engaging characters and writes compelling narrative . . . Her descriptive passages take your breath away.”
“A gently haunting work of subtle and surprising wisdom.”
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Top customer reviews
In the early 1900's psychology was a new field, Dr. John Watson was a very controversial and prominent psychology research scientist developing a new school of thought which became known as Behaviorism. Rosalie was first his research assistant, then his mistress and finally his wife.
Rosalie, a very ambitious young woman from a wealthy family, was not the average women of that era. She was far more interested in becoming a psychologist than in settling down and becoming a mother. Her ambitions were shoved aside as she became more and more involved with Dr. John Watson.
What I liked:
I loved having a glimpse into the changing world of the 1920's. Women were beginning to gain momentum with doors opening in the work place and with educational opportunities finally being offered to them. The author made the time and place feel very authentic.
The 1920's were also a time of advances in medicine, psychology, marketing and manufacturing. All those influences played well into the story. I loved hearing how "modern" their world was. Their generation was just blindly rejecting traditional, "old fashioned" ways. Granted, many important changes and advances were made in during that time, but it almost seemed like they were throwing away the past without determining whether or not the ideals were in need of change and if the new 'modern' ways were actually better.
It was fascinating to watch Rosalie change from being a pampered (though academically hard working), idealistic, naive girl to a woman who had had weathered a scandal, criticism on the one major research project she was involved with, unintentionally becoming a stay at home mother (who was responsible for actual house work) and becoming a wife with a cheating husband instead of the mistress. It was all very interesting to read about.
What I didn't love:
Aside from Dr. Watson's awful and very judgemental theories and Dr. Watson himself, there really wasn't much to not love. There were a few times where the book seemed to drag but I think part of it was to show the monotony of Rosalie's life. I also tend to have a hard time relaxing into fictionalized accounts of real people's lives because I cannot stop second guessing how correct the smaller details portrayed by the author really are. Not at all the fault of the author or the story line, just me. Maybe I need someone to do a psychological study on me?
It's an interesting book, but not one I would enthusiastically recommend. It was hard for me to care about either John or Rosalie Watson or even what became of them as characters (in this case, real live people of modern history) - he is to egotistical and almost maniacle, while she is too unwilling to acknowledge his flaws and her own role in fostering them. When I care little about main characters, I am seldom drawn into a book.
Nonetheless, is an experience that causes the reader to think and to give thanks that we have come to understand the importance of showing genuine love and affection to one another and to our children.
Most recent customer reviews
The writing is evocative, the setting and time period rich and convincing.Read more