A Perfect Life: A Novel (Hardcover)
A luminous and insightful novel that considers the moral complexities of scientific discovery and the sustaining nature of love. A young researcher at MIT, Jane Weiss is obsessed with finding the genetic marker for Valentine’s Disease, a neurodegenerative disorder. Her pursuit is deeply personal—Valentine’s killed her mother, and she and her freewheeling sister, Laurel, could be genetic carriers; each has a fifty percent chance of developing the disease. Having seen firsthand the devastating effect Valentine’s had on her parents’ marriage, Jane is terrified she might become a burden on whomever she falls in love with and so steers clear of romantic entanglement. Then, the summer before her father’s second wedding, Jane falls hard for her future stepbrother, Willie. But Willie’s father also died from Valentine’s, raising the odds that their love will end in tragedy.
When Willie bolts at a crucial moment in their relationship, Jane becomes obsessed with finding the genetic marker to the disease that threatens both their families. But if she succeeds in making history, will she and her sister have the courage to face the truth this newfound knowledge could hold for their lives? A Perfect Life is a novel of scientific and self discovery, about learning how to embrace life and love, no matter what may come. Eileen Pollack conjures a thought-provoking, emotionally resonant story of one woman’s brilliance and bravery as she confronts her deepest fears and desires—and comes to accept the inevitable and the unexpected.
Eileen Pollack holds a B.S. in physics from Yale and an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is the author of two story collections, two previous novels, and two books of nonfiction, and has received fellowships from the NEA, the Michener Foundation, and the Rona Jaffe Foundation. Her work has been included in the Best American Short Stories and the Best American Essays series. She is a former director and current faculty member of the Helen Zell MFA program in creative writing at the University of Michigan. She divides her time between Ann Arbor, Michigan, and New York City.
“A Perfect Life probes how we live in the face of uncertainty and the ways risk can both disable and empower us. In her latest novel, Eileen Pollack has crafted a tender exploration of family love that is as smart and thought-provoking as it is moving.” — Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You
“A tense scientific mystery propels this gripping novel, but what resonates most powerfully are the keenly-observed discoveries Jane makes about even deeper mysteries: the risks and pleasures of being human, and the nuances--as well as the costs--of love.” — Kim Edwards, author of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
“Pollack expertly and sensitively focuses on the nuances of ambivalence and on the human dilemma of what to do in the complex ethical situations that arise from genetic research.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Eileen Pollack’s highly compelling new novel takes on searing questions of fate and family... Jane’s challenge is deeply universal: how to find the courage and sheer will it takes to grasp the keenly precious moments of life even as they tremble and threaten to shake us apart.” — Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
“[An] intimate portrait of scientists engaged in research with the potential to change all our lives-and equally engaged in relationships that change their own lives. A Perfect Life fascinates on many levels.” — Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and Servants of the Map
“Out of the most basic building blocks of the universe, Pollack--with incredible wisdom, emotional subtlety, and a scientist’s unflinching eye combined with a lover’s determined passion--has written not only an important book, but a wildly absorbing one.” — Laura Kasischke, author of In a Perfect World
“[An] absorbing genetic mystery that is couched in a complicated love story and a tale of survival... Pollack’s combination of gritty romance and medical suspense will have readers thinking about mortality and the bonds of family long after finishing.” — Publishers Weekly