Review by John for The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady ~ by Elizabeth Stuckey-French (galley/arc)
The elderly subject of a 1950s scientific experiment finally seeks revenge on the doctor that was responsible for her misfortune, in this wacky, oddball family drama.
About: In the early 1950s Marylou Ahearn was secretly given a radioactive cocktail as part of a government study into the effects of radiation. It had some nasty effects on Marylou and her family and fifty years later she decides to seek out and take revenge on the doctor who gave her the “medicine”. She tracks him down via Google and moves to a house near to where he lives, but she has a hard time deciding how she should kill him. The old doctor is living with his daughter and her family, so she decides that as a first step she needs to get close to the family members; and that’s when it starts to get tricky.
The doctor’s family is fractured and dysfunctional to say the least. His daughter and her husband have long since drifted apart emotionally and are constantly arguing; she is being driven to distraction by her difficult family and is slowly going nuts while her husband is disappearing ever deeper into his work and his infatuation with the weather. To make matters worse their two oldest children are now on the threshold of adulthood but both have Asperger’s syndrome; one is fixated on Elvis Presley and the other spends most of his time on weird science experiments in the garden shed. The youngest child is a soccer fanatic who is desperate for her mother’s attention and love but seems to receive neither. And the old doctor? He now has Alzheimer’s and is losing his memory and his grip on reality.
Marylou slowly inveigles her way into the family with the express intention of causing them all distress, but the closer she gets to the odd bunch, the more she is attracted to them. Even the old doctor she has spent her life loathing seems more like a harmless and forgetful old buffoon. But she cannot forget her mission; he ruined her life and now it is her turn to return the favor.
John’s Thoughts: It’s not often that you come across a warm, humorous and sometimes touching book that is all about revenge, but this one fits the bill. It feels like the author’s tongue is often firmly in her cheek as she pokes gently (and sometimes not quite so gently) at life in modern America, examining some of the craziness in our society and some oddball family dynamics. But what ultimately shines through is people’s need for positive personal relationships and the strength of family ties.
At the end everything came together almost too neatly, but this was a fun, funny and easy read. I’d rate it 3.5 stars and would recommend it to anyone who likes novels about wacky family or personal relationships. If you are attracted by the title and are looking for some sort of bloodthirsty gore-fest, then move right along to a different type of revenge drama.
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Have you read and/or reviewed the book? What were your thoughts and do you agree with John?