A psychological tale centers on a woman’s quest to calm her own inner turmoil.
In the latest novel from Tomaszek (Blood Profit$, 2014, etc.), beautiful, young Dr. Maria Caterina “Cate” Numero is an assistant professor of information technology at the University of Chicago. Readers first encounter her in a bantering philosophical conversation with a colleague (“The whole world exiled God but still fears death,” he tells her, in language typical of the whole book. “So we worship youth, logically the furthest point from death. A pox on all thumb suckers”). It quickly becomes apparent that Cate is the object of romantic pursuit by several of her colleagues and acquaintances; readers follow her on dates that range from disastrous to life-changing (the author is a former amateur opera singer, and this experience is represented here in some wonderful writing about opera in general and Puccini’s Turandot in particular). When Cate witnesses the violent death of an overbearing colleague, she’s thrown into turmoil about how to deal with her own emotions. She comes in contact with a powerfully charismatic woman named Dr. Lilith Rose, who advocates a breakthrough procedure of genetic manipulation designed to help individuals change who they are (“Enter modern science. Genetic engineering to reprogram, evolutionary biology to explain and motivate, to lead the way. And finally, technology to transform, to sculpt”). Their interactions lead to the somewhat formless novel’s talky, theoretical second act. Cate is forced to ponder elemental questions like “What price does one have to pay to tinker with creation?,” and Tomaszek handles it all with a great deal of smooth confidence, rendering huge chunks of his book’s action in the form of vivid, forceful dialogue. The complex volume’s theoretical underpinnings can occasionally result in slow reading, but what it lacks in plotting, it makes up for in its freight of ideas.
An intriguing, if a bit unstructured, novel of ideas about the nature of personal healing.