'The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady'
Author: Elizabeth Stuckey-French
Published: Doubleday; Feb. 2011
Genre: Humor; Contemporary fiction
Synopsis: Glowing with dark humor, Stuckey-French's fabulously quirky second novel (after Mermaids on the Moon) spotlights a wild would-be killer: Marylou Ahearn, a 77-year-old retired teacher in Memphis, Tenn. She's obsessed with killing Dr. Wilson Spriggs, who gave pregnant Marylou a radioactive cocktail in 1953 during a secret government study. Helen, the daughter Marylou gave birth to, died in 1963 from cancer. Accompanied by her Welsh corgi, Buster, and as "Nancy Archer" (the heroine of the 1958 movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman), Marylou moves in 2006 to Tallahassee, Fla., where Wilson lives with his daughter, menopausal Caroline; her husband, Vic Witherspoon, who's contemplating an affair, and their children: 18-year-old Elvis-obsessed beauty Ava; 16-year-old science geek Otis, who's secretly building a nuclear breeder reactor; and overachieving, attention-deprived 13-year-old Suzi. As "Radioactive Lady," Nance creates mucho mischief for Wilson, but her revenge plans mutate after discovering the old doc has Alzheimer's, and dang it, she really likes his kinfolk.
My Take: I don't read a lot of kooky books just for the sake of them being kooky. I tend towards books that will move me. Now, I don't know why, maybe it was the 1950s cover or the totally wacky concept but something about this book just totally captured my attention. And you know what, every once and a while it's nice to read something unlike anything else I normally read and totally, freaking off the wall! Makes you feel real good about yourself!
The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady is alternately told from each of the main characters in the book so you can really get an idea of everyone's viewpoints in this book. The title character, the 'radioactive lady', is Marylou. She has recently moved to Tallahassee, renamed herself to Nancy Ahern, and as a 77-year old woman, is finally ready to exact her revenge on a doctor from when she was pregnant as a young woman. That doctor is Wilson Spriggs. He now has Alzheimer's but in Nancy's younger days, he gave her a 'vitamin cocktail' to help her unborn baby which was really radiation as part of a study she didn't know she was participating in. Eight years later her daughter died from cancer and eventually her marriage broke up. You could say Dr. Spriggs ruined her life. Now Marylou/Nancy wants to ruin his. Of course since he has Alzheimer's will he even know?!
So now that Marylou/Nancy is in Tallahassee she starts to meet the rest of Dr. Spriggs' family in order to get close to him. He has moved in with his daughter Caroline (harried mother of three), her husband Vic (professor, soon to be philander), their daughter Ava (has Asberger's), Otis (has Asberger's), and Suzi (the 'normal' child). You better believe this is a busy family! Marylou/Nancy decides instead of exacting her revenge on Dr. Spriggs, she will exact it by ruining his family's life instead.
Chaos, as you can imagine, ensues. You kind of just have to sit back and laugh because it's not a serious book. At least I didn't take it as some sort of serious commentary on society, I took as a break from my normal stressful life and was all like 'holy crap this book is full of some seriously crazy people'. It was kind of like watching reality tv. I can say that this book probably isn't for everyone, but if you are in the right mood, it's certainly worth a fun read! Out now in paperback, be sure to get your hands on a copy, or one for the the favorite kook in your life!
Cover Lust: As I said above, I was drawn to this book because of the 1950s cover with the sinister edge!