Susan's Reviews > The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady

The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French
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Feb 25, 2011

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bookshelves: arc-edition
Read from February 21 to 24, 2011 — I own a copy

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 long overdue.

Can revenge be sweet when the object of revenge no longer remembers what he has done? Do the ends justify the means – whether it is a scientific study or a murder? Maybe revenge would be better served by hurting this doctor's family. This messed-up family has problems of its own, both by circumstance and of its own creation. Two of the children have Asperger's Syndrome and don't make life easy for their put-upon, depressed mother. One of them is building a nuclear breeder/reactor in the backyard shed. The other is currently obsessed with Elvis. The third and “normal” child feels pressure to be perfect and can't quite live up to expectations. Their father flirts with women he shouldn't but spends most of his time in the basement, tracking hurricanes. Grandpa, the evil doctor, generally doesn't have a clue about what is happening.

To quote Donald Rumsfeld, “My goodness!” (No, he wasn't talking about this book – I just wanted to quote him.) I love the title of the book, and the story is funny in a dark sort of way. I expected more humor, despite the grim subject. For the most part, the characters are unlikeable, quirky,but interesting. Reading this, I felt like one of those people who really, really doesn't want to look at the car wreck she has just driven by, but does anyway. So, does Marylou/Nancy manage to kill Dr. Spriggs or does she settle for hurting the family? Does anyone ever live happily ever after? What makes the novel more than just entertaining is the very sad fact that such experiments were conducted on pregnant women without their knowledge. Marylou was justified in her anger, but she let it take over her life.

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher, for which I am grateful. The advance copy had more typos than I have come to expect in galleys, but I trust they will be corrected in the published edition.
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