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by Amy Herrick

Pub Date: March 31st, 2003
ISBN: 0-670-03197-6
Publisher: Viking

First-novelist Herrick (stories: At the Sign of the Naked Waiter, 1992) offers a science tale about a genetically engineered baby.

Brooklyn housewife Pinky is happy with her bioengineer husband Arthur and son Teddy, seven, but she wants another child—yet can’t convince Arthur to have one. Arthur, who does DNA research, is feeling rather besieged by the maternal instinct just now: his lab assistant, Marina, has talked him into giving a sample of his semen so she can have a child of her own, and Arthur is afraid Pinky will find out. What he doesn’t know is that Marina has “boosted” his semen with DNA chromosomes in a genetic experiment of her own. Ken Fishhammer, head of the bioengineering department, knows what Marina has done and is interested in seeing the outcome—especially when the university expels him and shuts down his lab after discovering that he was performing unauthorized research. Ken goes to work for a private laboratory and waits for Marina’s child as the only means left to test his work now that his project has been cancelled. Marina gives birth to a healthy boy but dies a few months later in a road accident, and her sister Katya is left with the child. Ken immediately steps in and offers to adopt the boy, but his offers on the child’s behalf (a specially constructed nursery in the lab, along with a deaf-mute nanny named Maurice) are rejected when Katya informs him that “other relatives” have taken the baby. Indeed, Pinky wakes up that same day to discover a healthy, happy, well-fed baby boy on her doorstep. Happy ending? More like a bad start. Ken isn’t willing to let his superchild escape and sets about tracking him down. Meanwhile, can Arthur (who’s now trying to adopt the boy) keep his family together? It might help if he knew the child were really his.

Too long, too intricate, and finally too obvious: a nice plot that ends up tripping over itself.