GENIUS by Thomas Rayfiel

GENIUS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This genius has as many insecurities as the rest of us—and a quirky family that helps her address mortality.

Rayfiel is a shape-shifting writer. After the beautiful and mysterious monologue of In Pinelight (2013), his last novel, this new work presents what amounts to a morbidly funny conversation. There is little narration, with the book taking place almost entirely in dialogue, and Rayfiel creates clear and memorable characters through their banter. Kara Bell is a 23-year-old small-town girl who's pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy in New York City. Diagnosed with cancer, she returns to Witch’s Falls, Arkansas, in search of a bone-marrow match within her family. She's a fish out of water in this town of no secrets, at odds with her mother, cynical about her brother's vacuous girlfriend and tattoo business, lustfully infatuated with her old friend Christy, and literally dying to get out of town. Neither her brother, Gerald, nor her mother, Jean, is a match for her, and they're reluctant to give her any information about her late father’s family as another potential source for the transplant. Kara is thoroughly grounded in epistemology but can't find the answers she needs for her cure. When her mother insists she see the local doctor for a second opinion, she finds out she's pregnant with the child of her 75-year-old doctoral adviser, a genius himself. At physical risk because of her illness and indifferent to motherhood given her strange relationship with her own mother, she has Christy take her to an abortion clinic in Little Rock. She may hold the answers to the universe in her brilliant head, but secrets begin to emerge about her life and her family that she could never have guessed, and life becomes something she has to figure out without the guiding voice of Kant in her ear. “The thing-in-itself. Not what we perceive through our senses but what is. What we can never know.”

A humorous novel about very unfunny things.

Pub Date: March 7th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-8101-3246-7
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: TriQuarterly/Northwestern Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2016




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