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Intuition

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  2,978 ratings  ·  577 reviews
Allegra Goodman returns with a bracing new novel, at once an intricate mystery and a rich human drama set in the high-stakes atmosphere of a prestigious research institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Sandy Glass, a charismatic publicity-seeking oncologist, and Marion Mendelssohn, a pure, exacting scientist, are codirectors of a lab at the Philpott Institute dedicated to ca
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Paperback, 385 pages
Published March 13th 2007 by Dial Press (first published 2006)
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Intuition by Allegra GoodmanJurassic Park by Michael CrichtonContact by Carl SaganFrankenstein by Mary ShelleyThe Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
Lab Lit
1st out of 99 books — 46 voters
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskeyMystic River by Dennis LehaneThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodConfidential Communications by J.R. ReardonJohnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
Boston Books
39th out of 181 books — 174 voters


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Community Reviews

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Yulia
My only guess as to why the New Yorker called Goodman a "writer of uncommon clarity" is because she repeats the same phrases again and again until you have no excuse not to notice them. One reference to the action in this novel taking place at Harvard would have been enough, but Goodman gives us dozens of reminders within the first few pages alone that, yes, this is Harvard and, yes, she has done her research and knows about the kids in the pit and the chess players outside of Au Bon Pain and th ...more
Steve
I read somewhere that part of Goodman’s point in writing this was to portray science as religion. Her worshippers were researchers in a lab studying possible cures for cancer. The Way, the Truth, and the Light were the cause and effect relationships in the biological world that could be supported or denied by way of experiments. Some were attracted to this “church” for the chance to proselytize. One of the co-directors of the institute was an accomplished glad-hander and self-promoter. He was mo ...more
Della
One of the few books that I didn’t enjoy, and forced myself to read all the way through in order to be fair about my assessment of the entire book. To make a long complaint short, I think Allegra is telling a specific story about a specific set of circumstances. It is an interesting story such that her characters are placed in difficult situations, but they choose to take courses of action that I think a lot of reasonable people in science would have taken an alternative approach. What worries m ...more
Marie
I would give the first half of this book 4 stars, and the last half 2 stars, averaging to 3 stars.

In the beginning, I found the story compelling and the plot interesting. It is not for the fainthearted, though, or for animal lovers. I am no lover of rodents, but even I had difficulties reading about the experiments on the tiny mice that were given cancer and other ailments and then "sacrificed" at the end. (I do believe that animal research is necessary for scientific advances, but I had never r
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Tommy
Frankly, I was quite disappointed given all the hype about this book when it hit the stands. In the end, there were well-developed characters but I just didn't buy into the relationships, I really didn't care about what happened to any of them, and was skeptical of the zaniness than embodied parts of the ending. It took me in a direction I wasn't expecting, and didn't inspire me to want to be there.
Lightreads
One of those where I can rattle off a whole long list of good things about this book and Goodman's talent, but my face would still be going '…eh' the entire time. Watch:

The story of a cancer research lab and what happens when one researcher calls shenanigans on the extraordinary results of her colleague. An intensely interpersonal web, where it's not about the conflict and who is right and what the truth is, but instead about these personalities in this high-pressure mixing bowl. It's a book abo
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le-trombone
This is a novel of science, labs, and people. Amazingly, it very good. This is not sarcasm; it is not often that one sees a well-written novel where the characters are scientists, and actually behave like human beings. Unfortunately, behaving like human beings sometimes means behaving badly.

Cliff Bannaker is a postdoc struggling with his research. It's not going well, and the two directors of his lab are contemplating letting him go, when his third run of experiments (a virus to attack cancer ce
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Lucy
this book also had a particularly great sentence i thought some of the academic bloggers might enjoy: "patiently, during office hours, he tried to explain his course material, even while privately he wondered if some of his students had been mistakenly admitted to college, because they seemed to him mildly retarded." i liked this book a lot. i've never read a book about medical/molecular biology researchers before, and she captured the whole research experience pretty well (i liked the mentions ...more
Laura
Very detailed insight into the world of medical research. I enjoyed this one. Here is the review from the New Yorker: This intimate portrait of life in a research institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, revolves around a scientific mystery: the groundbreaking, too-good-to-be-true discovery of a virus that fights cancer. Cliff, the rakish, headstrong post-doc responsible for the discovery, is on the verge of dismissal when his tumor-ridden mice exhibit stunning rates of remission; meanwhile, Cliff ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

The author of the National Book Award finalist Kaaterskill Falls (1998) and the critically acclaimed Total Immersion (1989) and The Family Markowitz (1996) has written another gripping novel. In this issue-driven drama told through multiple perspectives, Goodman probes the commitment to scientific discovery and the desire for success. Keeping situations morally ambiguous, Goodman introduces characters whose intuitions guide them through all-too-plausible dilemmas. A few critics disagreed about R

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Cheryl
This is a fascinating read about the personalities and politics of a cancer research lab. A struggling postdoc suddenly starts to achieve startling results with his experiments, bringing some fame and kudos to his lab. But another postdoc, a soon-to-be-ex girlfriend, can't replicate his results, and she starts to wonder about the integrity of his processes. The story is told from numerous viewpoints, showing that truth is relative, not easily defined. Supposedly objective and unassailable hard d ...more
William
A novel about cancer research in Cambridge, Mass., Intuition follows a close-knit group of postdoctoral researchers through a series of experiments that leads them through successes, failures and the possibilities of private and public redemption. Larger issues are raised about the purity of science, the uses of ego in competitive climates, the overlap between politics and science, and how personal needs occlude and corrupt institutional goals — and often times shape them. What I enjoyed about t ...more
Snotchocheez

(with profuse apologies to my one Goodreads friend who gave this 5 stars, and with whom I just explained how loath I am to give 1-star reviews)

Um...no, please.

Intuition, a story about several scientists in search of a cure for cancer, reads like it has much loftier intentions, but somehow comes off like a Michael Crichton/Jodi Picoult in vitro love child experiment gone frightfully, yet boringly, awry. Lots of handwringing, and very little substance; you almost root for the lab rats to bite one
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David
Intuition reminded me of a John Grisham book, however instead of taking place in a courtroom, the setting was a research lab and academia. The level of detail included made the book very vivid. There were some characters that were not developed and therefore created a little bit of a void. There was also the presence of the "Kate" character, which really did not make sense or add to the plot. Overall this was a good read and the ending was not predictable and made sense, and was creative because ...more
beth
Just thought it was a shallow development of not all that believeable characters. While the main character alluded to the fact that Robin was his girlfriend, there was minimal build up or description of their relationship or their lives. Just could not get into the characters.
Lindsey
This book was somewhat interesting but never turned into one of those gotta-read-it page turners for me. It was breezy and well written, but some of the literary parts I couldn't help but feel were somewhat juvenile for the subject material that was being covered.
Lisa Eckstein
At a research institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a group of postdoctoral researchers study cancer cells and test treatments on mice under the guidance of their two influential (and very different) lab directors. One postdoc has been chastised for wasting resources by pursuing an experimental direction that's going nowhere. When suddenly his work starts producing results that are good, even great, it's wonderful news for the lab. But suspicion surrounds his findings. Is it all too good to be ...more
Susan
I picked this up at a book sale and knew nothing about it, but loved it as soon as I started to read it. It's an unexpectedly suspenseful story about a group of post-doctoral researchers working to find a cure for pancreatic cancer. The research facility is in Boston, and most of the book takes place in Cambridge. Friendships and a romantic relationship become tangled up in the competition for prestige and prominence. Goodman seems to develop the full cast of characters and almost refrains from ...more
Janelle
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Steve Betz
There are very few books or films that capture the ups and downs of doing scientific research. Allegra Goodman’s book “Intuition” actually does a pretty good job of capturing the motivations, competition, camaraderie and ethical decisions faced by researchers during their day-to-day jobs.

The book seems to be modeled off of an infamous case of scientific misconduct that occurred during the time I was in graduate school. In the story, an average post-doctoral researcher at a mildly prestigious lab
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Joan
Someone suggested that I read this book after we had discussed another novel (The Cookbook Collector) by this author. 'you like it' she said, 'it's about a lab', referring to my scientific education and occupation.

It was a page turner with interesting plot and character, but not completely filling - although I just finished reading the book and will perhaps reflect back on this book in the future - which is ultimately my standard for a good book!

The story centers on a laboratory in Boston where
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Ross
Intuition is a mystery of sorts and it's a piece of serious fiction that raises important issues about ethics and scientific research. I choose it because it came highly recommended as serious fiction. I plowed through it because the plot is filled with tension and I wanted to know what happened. I agree with the praise this novel has received for capturing the politics and internal dynamics of an academic research laboratory. The publicity-seeking oncologist represents a type one can find, I su ...more
Mark
Just a quickie review right now, to mention that one thing I really like about Allegra Goodman's writing is how she springs "obvious" plot evolutions on you without drama: something that was certain to happen, just does, or is revealed in the next scene already to HAVE happened. It's refreshingly economical. Goodman he makes her words count.

Also, the action is subtle; there are no cheap shots. At various times I was *sure* there would be a fatefully misplaced chemical reagent, or a tragic swimm
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Sheila
This novel won't give you much feeling for the hundreds of mice who are sacrificed in its pages, but it will consume you with the trials and tribulations - great and small - of the white-coated and white-privileged professionals who inhabit the world of science. At first read you might think you are getting a real insider view, but in the end, I realized I had suffered the limitations of the author's privileged upbringing. One comes away with the "balanced view" that might be offered by mainstre ...more
Trish
I'm going to say only two things about this book:

Wow.

I think I'd like to own a copy.

"Harmonious in their enthusiasms, they abhorred together beautifully as well, detesting religions, superstitions, condominiums, and corporations."

"For years Ann had contemplated the way that weakness became strength. More than once as she ran her busy household, and organized her husband's and her children's lives, she'd wished that she, too could come down with some mysterious but non-life-threatening ailment
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Megan
Intuition, by Allegra Goodman deals with a controversy over an experimental cancer treatment developed at a Boston lab. The Philpott lab is struggling to get funding when Cliff, one of the postdocs, appears to have made an amazing discovery. As the story progresses, Cliff's findings are thrown into doubt by his fellow researcher and ex-girlfriend Robin. When she cannot replicate his results, Robin accuses Cliff of manipulating the data. Her initial questioning grows until it becomes a national d ...more
Suzanne Macartney
Loved this book. yes, it goes a bit wayward part of the way through. But novels that dig deeply into people’s career choices and motivations like this are uncommon. We get to peek inside a world class bioresearch lab and learn of the challenges, the isolation and rewards. Goodman knows her characters so well that it’s a pleasure to see them from several sides. As she tells it, some personalities have zero tolerance for hypocrisy.

The other thing to recommend this novel is the spotlight on high s
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Pygmy
A struggle to read...mainly because at pg.82, I still don't care about any of the characters. The science laboratory setup with actually real science details, rather than pseudo-crap a la "Pemberly By the Sea", was nice and different, but not so appealing that it can stand wihtout character investment.

The author also has a baffling habit of changing POV several times throughout a chapter, essentially hopping to every character in the room. I had always heard/thought that if you are going to swit
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Alan
I like Allegra Goodman's clear and compelling story-telling, which was in full force here in taking her readers into the world of a cancer research lab. The conflict appears when a researcher who is on the cusp of being fired suddenly delivers very positive findings in an experiment that promises a cure to cancer. Were the findings real or faked? The lab supervisors are certain they are real and will lead to more funding, while a competing lab assistant has an "intuition" that they are faked. At ...more
Dee
This is a tough book to review! Firstly, Allegra Goodman has a depth of perception into her characters that is almost spooky. It's hard to remember that they're made-up! Yet she applies this keen observation so skillfully that her descriptions never feel pedantic or forced. It's a real feat of wisdom and writing craft to pull off such detailed portrayals so elegantly. For that alone, she deserves five stars. The book started beautifully and was completely engaging. The only reason that I gave th ...more
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“Women hate each other in science. You know why? Because the few that are around were trained by men. They survived by being twice as good and twice as competitive and twice as badass as the guys.” 2 likes
“Talent and intelligence, not to mention tireless hard work, got lab scientists through the door, but—this was the dirty secret—you needed luck.” 0 likes
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