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The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady

3.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,436 Ratings  ·  325 Reviews
This lively, intricately plotted, laugh-out-loud funny, and surprisingly touching family drama combines the wit of Carl Hiaasen with the southern charm of Jill McCorkle.

Seventy-seven-year-old Marylou Ahearn is going to kill Dr. Wilson Spriggs come hell or high water. In 1953, he gave her a radioactive cocktail without her consent as part of a secret government study that
Hardcover, 334 pages
Published February 8th 2011 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2011)
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Feb 21, 2011 Felice rated it really liked it
In another of those marvelous anecdotes that becomes unburied and astounds us all it turns out that between 1945 and 1949, 800+ pregnant women were told by doctors at Vanderbilt University Hospital that the radioactive iron they were given was a vitamin that would enhance their health and that of their unborn children. The experiment was to see if the children would be protected from the radioactivity by the placenta. Of course they were not protected. In The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady auth ...more
David Abrams
Feb 17, 2011 David Abrams rated it really liked it
In 1958, a 50-foot woman attacked movie theaters in a rampage of "revenge and desire." The science-fiction camp classic has been revered and reviled in equal doses over the years--audiences either love the tale of Nancy Archer, hard-drinking socialite who turns into a giantess and goes after her husband and his mistress, or they put Attack of the 50 Foot Woman on par with Plan 9 From Outer Space. Either way, Nancy Archer has served as a prototype for cautionary feminist tales for the last 50 yea ...more
Siobhan Fallon
Mar 30, 2011 Siobhan Fallon rated it it was amazing
I am not sure how Elizabeth Stuckey-French manages to craft a funny novel out of the systematic radioactive poisoning of pregnant women by the US government in the 1950s, autistic teenagers, a marriage falling apart, an old man with border-line dementia, and a preacher with a prediliction for adolescents, but, remarkably, she does. And I am usually someone who likes my fiction heart-breaking rather than side-splitting, but I really enjoyed this book, racing through chapters to see what would hap ...more
The best thing about The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady is the title. The second best thing about the novel is the cover.

The third best thing is the first chapter of the novel, wherein our heroine describes how she was given a radioactive cocktail by her doctor in the 1950s as part of a secret government study, its affects on her life, and her plans for revenge. Cool and off-beat beginning – so far, so good. The novel then, surprisingly, segues into a garden variety life-in-the-suburbs novel, f
Christine Seifert
Jun 07, 2011 Christine Seifert rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011-books
Ann and Michael from the Books on the Nighstand podcast told me to read this book. I'm glad I do what they say because I loved it.

Who would've guessed that a novel about an elderly victim of unethical medical experiments who sets out to kill the now doddering doctor who administered the radioactive cocktails fifty years ago would be funny. But it is!

Stuckey-French's characters are sympathetically drawn. They're quirky, but never so quirky that they feel unreal. The writing is quite lively and t
Mar 27, 2011 Gaby rated it really liked it
Humorous, quirky, offbeat all describe the unusual characters that inhabit The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French.

There is seventy-seven-year-old Marylou Ahearn is determined to kill Dr. Wilson Spriggs to avenge his involvement in the medical experiment that cost her her only child Helen. Spriggs had fed pregnant women - Marylou included - radioactive cocktails in a scientific experiment that bore horrific results. When Marylou finally tracks Dr Spriggs down, she moves t
Bookmarks Magazine
Apr 06, 2011 Bookmarks Magazine rated it really liked it
Shelves: may-june-2011
The story of Marylou is not all fiction. Between 1944 and 1974, more than 20 medical experiments charted the effects of radiation on pregnant women, including one at Vanderbilt University, where poor, white pregnant women were given cocktails of radioactive iron. One would suppose that a novel inspired by such dark subject matter would be solemn or angst-ridden; instead, The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady turns out to be “the best kind of page-turner—one with heart” (Boston Globe). A few review ...more
Aug 12, 2011 Brian rated it really liked it
This book was an odd one. When I first saw the arc at work it didn't appeal to me. But
upon reading it I was treated to a humorous yet somewhat deep novel about a woman who seeks revenge. Marylou unknowningly drank a radiation cocktail and as a result her young daughter dies. She blames the doctor who is a man named Wilson and plots to kill him. But she becomes close to his family and realizes he is senile. This book was a lot of fun. It is
told in alternating viewpoints.
Mar 15, 2011 Amy rated it it was amazing
I loved the humor in this book and was hooked from the first chapter. Also found the family dynamics when two of the kids have Asperger's to be fascinating. And I never quite knew what was coming (ok, not totally true-I guessed something ahead of time about a certain youth pastor).
Apr 23, 2011 Beth rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, fiction
Great convoluted story, darkly humorous and ironic...I was pleasantly surprised. Senior citizen hell bent on revenge (justifiably so), sets out to destroy a doctor and his family with surprises throughout.
David Zerangue
Feb 13, 2015 David Zerangue rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Where to begin? I culled through a number of reviews and found one which I found to sum up my thoughts. The book had a catchy title, great cover art, and a humorous premise. However, it quickly devolved from these high points into a mass of disconnectedness. I can't say that there were not good elements which made up this book, but the manner in which it was promoted was off. It should not have been labeled as a funny book. Truly it was not. That was left behind by the title and premise. It is a ...more
Who would've guessed that a novel about an elderly victim of unethical medical experiments who sets out to kill the now doddering doctor who administered the radioactive cocktails fifty years ago would be funny. But it is! Humorous, quirky, and offbeat all describe the unusual, but like able characters that inhabit the Revenge of the Radioactive Lady, by Elizabeth Stuckey-French.

Stuckey-French's characters are sympathetically drawn. They're quirky, but never so quirky that they feel unreal. The
Mar 09, 2011 Amy rated it liked it
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I loved both the premise and the cover of this book. Marylou Ahearn is ready to finally get her revenge on Dr. Wilson Spriggs after 50 years. She assumes an identity (straight out of a Hollywood B movie) and moves into Dr. Spriggs' Florida neighborhood to put her plan into action. In the 1950's, when Marylou was a young woman pregnant with her first child, she was given a radioactive cocktail as part of a government experiment on radiati
Oct 14, 2011 Farfished9 rated it liked it
Ooooook--what to say, what to say..? I never tell what the book is about much because it takes up too much rambling space along with the opinion bit and has already been done a dozen times...sooo how I felt about this book is what you get, if ya want it...

This was a very easy read. I was entertained enough to read right through problemo. The idea of an old lady out for revenge in the way of murdering an even older man who had done her wrong so long ago was great....just At
Feb 25, 2011 Susan rated it liked it
Shelves: arc-edition
Nancy Archer is the giant woman, made huge by contact with a space alien, in the campy old movie, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. So when Marylou Ahearn moves to Tallahassee for the sole purpose of killing Dr. Wilson Spriggs, she adopts that character's name. And she is a Radioactive Lady, thanks to a radioactive cocktail given to her without her knowledge as part of Dr. Spriggs's study. She, like the other women in this 1950s study, was pregnant. And her child died of cancer. Revenge, in 2006, is ...more
Jessica at Book Sake
Marylou Ahearn is bent on revenge after locating the doctor who, in 1953, headed a radiation experiment that eventually took her eight-year-old daughter’s life. With plans to murder Dr. Wilson Spriggs, Marylou moves to Florida only to find out that Wilson now has Alzheimer’s disease and no recollection of her. Marylou’s plans of murder are foiled, for she cannot kill a man who has no idea what pain he’s caused her. Instead, she resolves to reap her revenge in the form of misery and tear Spriggs’ ...more
May 27, 2012 Christi rated it did not like it
Absolutely horrible book. I was looking for something fun but decent at the library, and the back matter sounded promising, so I decided to check it out. I'm one of those people that has to finish a book once I start it, and this book made me hate that about myself for the first time in a long time. It started out okay...premise was a little silly, but it's summer reading, so I gave in and kept going. I'm not sure if Stuckey-French was pushing a deadline or what, but as I was reading, I noticed ...more
Attila Cthulhuson
Mar 09, 2012 Attila Cthulhuson rated it liked it
Really this was a 3.5 for me.

Not going to rehash synopsis, so read it first. Good? Ok.

I was hoping for some black comedy, and it was that way a goodly bit, but there were smatterings of despair. The lives of those she wants to mess with are already pretty messed up and depressing -- except for Otis. I loved him. He was awesome! But I had to read this since 1. The premise is hilarious and 2. It is in Tallahassee (like meeeeeeeee!) And I'm glad I did, and not just for the very apt description Vic
Utterly irresistible title, not to mention the cover art or the story synopsis. I generally enjoy a good romp with any oddball, dysfunctional family so I expected to enjoy this thoroughly. I did gobble it right up but I am still deciding how much I actually liked it. To be sure, there are some great characters. You gotta love a 77 year old women bent on revenge against the doctor who headed up the research project that fed her a radioactive cocktail during pregnancy ... except that when he turns ...more
Leigh Hinton-Ridling
May 27, 2011 Leigh Hinton-Ridling rated it it was ok
Reading the book jacket quotes, I expected to be thoroughly entertained by this book. Unfortunately, I was never that excited while reading the book. I only read the whole thing to see if it ever lived up to the reviews. For me, it didn't. It had a lot of promise, but just didn't deliver. I regret finishing this book.

--------------POSSIBLE SPOILER BELOW------------------

If you're in the middle of it, know that it doesn't get any better and there are definitely better ways to spend your time. If
Mar 22, 2011 Chris rated it did not like it
From the back of the book: "It's impossible not to love a novel that starts out with a seventy-seven-year-old woman planning cold blooded murder, especially when the old lady in question is as charming and funny..."


The nuts and bolts seem fairly well written, the characters well thought out. The story just su
Apr 28, 2011 Donna rated it it was ok
Shelves: library, didnt-finish
A radioactive geriatric with murder on her mind sounds like she should be exactly my kind of main character. The title, cover, and jacket blurb make the book seem like a dark comedy, so it was an unpleasant surprise to realize that, a third of the way through the novel, I was actually stuck in a slow-burn suburban drama with occasional touches of "isn't that just so wacky?" humor.

I liked Marylou quite a bit, but the scientist's family seemed like more of a focus, and they all left me cold. Stran
Nov 23, 2010 Ellen rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's wacky, it's fun, and I suspect this is the antidote for some of the deeply depressing fiction I usually love to read. Full of oddball characters who take the reader on a wild journey through loss and revenge and multiple surprises, this novel is written in well-crafted prose that never clunks. The borderline-ditsy but definitely gutsy main character Marylou and the various quirky members of the Spriggs and Coffey families are still with me. I hope they hang a ...more
Feb 25, 2011 Tracy rated it really liked it
This is yet another time when I wish goodreads would give us the ability to give something a 1/2 star designation. My review would be for 3 1/2 stars instead of 4. This is a book that I absolutely adored when I began reading it, but with 100 pages too many it began to slog along around the 200 page mark. I've given it 4 just because I did love it when I started reading it and the overall story is a good one. There have been so many books recently that seem to need a good editor to trim them down ...more
Meagan Houle
Feb 08, 2016 Meagan Houle rated it really liked it
Confession time: yes, of course I picked this up for the title alone. It turns out my intuition was wise this time. This is a nasty little tale of power, privilege, and revenge, both thwarted and successful. The "radioactive lady", a pregnant mother who had been unknowingly given a cocktail of radioactive material in the fifties as part of an experiment, tracks down the doctor who led the study and who, indirectly, caused the death of her young daughter. By the time she meets him, however, he is ...more
Nov 24, 2015 Lynn rated it liked it
Crazy, zany book - and I loved it because it was so different.

Marylou was part of radiation experiments in the 40's (yes, it really happened), and she drinks a radioactive "cocktail" when she is pregnant. Doctors/nurses just said it was vitamins to help her. When her daughter, Helen, is born, she is fine, but Helen dies of cancer when she is only 9. Marylou finds out the doctor responsible for this, and plans to kill him. (OK, I like dark humor).

She stalks him and plans his murder, but never goe
Dec 30, 2014 Alistair rated it liked it
77 year old Marylou Ahearn plans a homicide - not randomly, in particular one Dr. Wilson Spriggs. Why? Marylou blames Dr. Spriggs for experimenting on her and hundreds of other pregnant women by administering radium-laced cocktails: healthy for the baby. 8 years later Marylou's daughter dies of cancer. Decades pass before she decides to act; she relocates to be near Spriggs and his family, changes her name to Nancy Archer (after the heroine in the infamously bad 50s horror flick Attack of the 50 ...more
Diana S
I thought this book was a very cleverly written book. I loved the tied-in at the beginning of the book with the old B-movie Attack of the 50-foot Woman. The book has humor, revenge, love, forgiveness. The book has some bases on the experimentations done on U.S. Citizens during the Cold War. We also learned a little more about Asperger's Syndrome. I loved the characters especially "Marylou" aka. Nancy Archer.
Apr 09, 2012 Kathryn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kathryn by: Assorted Book Nuts Book Club
Shelves: 2012
This book had the strangest collection of characters. Marylou Ahearn was given a radioactive cocktail without her concent when she was pregnant in 1953, she's now 77 and has decided she wants to kill the doctor that was the head of the study. It sounds good, but I just did not grow attached to any of the characters. I would probably rate this book a 2.75, so I rounded it to a three.
Oct 07, 2012 Katy rated it did not like it
I'm not going to finish this one. I usually don't just stop reading a book in the middle, but I'm halfway through this one and I just don't care about the characters at all. I don't know if it's just me or what (which it very well could be. Other people seem to have enjoyed this book, and I'm glad for them). But, you know it's bad when reading a book for pleasure becomes a chore.
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Elizabeth Stuckey-French is the author of a novel, Mermaids on the Moon, a collection of short stories, The First Paper Girl in Red Oak Iowa, and, with Janet Burroway, Writing Fiction: A Guide to the Narrative Craft. Her new novel, The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady, is forthcoming from Doubleday in spring 2011. Her short stories have appeared in The Normal School, Narrative Magazine, The Atlanti ...more
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“Six months ago when she first came up with the idea to kill Wilson, back when she was living in Memphis, she'd started going to church again. Since she was spending so much time thinking about sinister things, the least she could do, she reasoned, was to think about God and his love twice a week at church so that she wouldn't become a total sociopath. And rather than kill other people who were stand-ins for the person she really wanted to kill, like serial killers did, she'd be kind and generous to others and hone in on the one who deserved to die. And her plan had worked extremely well. Since she'd started planning to kill Wilson, and then decided to destroy his family instead, she felt no animosity toward anyone but him. Almost none at all!” 3 likes
“The way adults could talk themselves into and out of feeling okay about something always amazed her.” 0 likes
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