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The Cure for Modern Life


The Cure for Modern Life

Ten-year-old Danny's mother has a drug problem. He only vaguely
remembers when she was able to hold down a job and really take care
of him and his three-year-old sister Isabelle, when they had a real
home. Now, the family lives in a Philadelphia crack house (a
dubious step up from the abandoned car they occupied previously),
and Danny's mom is always either high or sick from withdrawal
symptoms when she is unable to score a hit. As for Danny, he spends
his days begging for money to buy Isabelle's necessities and
worrying about his mother's addiction and his sister’s
developmental delays.

Forty-year-old Matthew Connelly also has a drug problem, although
his is both more subtle and more insidious than Danny's mom's.
Matthew is an executive at a major Philadelphia-based
pharmaceutical company. He has worked his way to the top, starting
at the company in his 20s after leaving medical school, basing much
of his professional achievements on the success of one particular
pain-killing drug --- a medication he has overseen since its
R&D phase, one that is now the most commonly prescribed
medication for chronic pain.

With his high-powered job, chic urban loft, high-end electronics
and a series of beautiful but shallow girlfriends, Matthew seems
like the last person in the world to want a family. But when his
path crosses those of Danny and Isabelle, he takes them in on a
whim. He may regret his decision the next morning, but not before
the two children have enmeshed themselves in his life and in the
lives of his closest friends.

These include Ben, Matthew's unlikely best friend and an
award-winning medical researcher who has devoted his life to
solving diseases that strike the world's poor, and Ben's
girlfriend, Amelia. Amelia used to be Matthew's girlfriend, even
(if he had to grudgingly admit it) the love of his life. But
Amelia, a bioethicist who became disillusioned by Matthew's
professional activities, has now devoted her life to exposing the
injustices and immoral practices of big pharmaceutical companies
(including Matthew's) and to Ben, a morally upstanding man who
couldn't be less like Matthew.

Lisa Tucker's fourth novel is both impressively ambitious in scope
and startlingly intimate in its explorations. She delves into big
social issues, including the corruption of the health care field,
the questionable practices of large corporations, and the
relationship between the press and business. But she also explores,
in a particularly insightful approach, the questions of why we love
the people we do, even when that love seems to make no sense. In
doing so, she writes from the point of view not only of Amelia but
also of Matthew and Danny. For the most part, she credibly and
convincingly offers insights into the emotional lives of an
anti-emotional man and a boy who is as innocent as he is

THE CURE FOR MODERN LIFE, with its numerous plot twists and steady
pacing, is simultaneously a compelling page-turner and a
provocative examination of how a small, diverse group of characters
is doing their best to navigate the unfamiliar, treacherous moral
landscape of modern life. Frequent flashbacks and a strong sense of
place add to the novel's cinematic feeling. Readers will find
themselves hoping that it will make its way to the big screen; in
the meantime, they can content themselves with the many fruitful
discussions that Tucker’s latest work will bring to book
clubs around the country.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 7, 2011

The Cure for Modern Life
by Lisa Tucker

  • Publication Date: March 25, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atria
  • ISBN-10: 074349279X
  • ISBN-13: 9780743492799