Robin Stratton’s very well-written In His Genes, available for order online in print, Kindle and Nook versions from Big Table Publishing, concerns the wayward emotional status of a part time lab technician. Cassie is secretly in love with her boss, genetic clinician Jack, and prone to petty jealousies of both his friends and members of his family while earnestly assisting Jack in the hunt for precisely the genetic imperfection imperiling his son. Young Jeremy loves her as “Auntie Cassandra,” and especially favors the occasional dietary departures she provides such as chocolate cake. Part of the book’s subtext is the wrong headedness of the conventional approach to curing sickness via medicine when the root of many traumas is genetic, necessitating exactly the sort of neverending doggedness providing employment for characters like Jack and Cassie. This misalignment of approach is summed up by Stratton’s inclusion of the quote from Drs. Rudy Tanzi and Ann B. Parson (perhaps intuitive models for Cassie and Jack?) describing it, approximately, as looking for raindrops by studying clouds. In the interest of full disclosure, this reporter has seen and agreed with a similar quote indicating that the root of all physical malaise is psycho-emotional rather than physiological, except as concerns its symptomology, but he’s an amateur by trade.
Cassie arrives at her infatuation with Jack after ending an unsatisfactory affair with her live in boyfriend Andrew and feeling herself perhaps the last uncoupled member of her peer group, particularly as regards her family. “Was seeking perfection a good thing or a bad thing? I no longer knew. I haven't had a girlfriend to bounce ideas off since all mine got married and ditched me twenty years ago.” As a self-defined black sheep, our heroine is subject to an almost organic disturbance when confronted with the unflagging reports of everyone else’s success: “Half an hour passes while I listen to stories about her son who has made dean's list for the third semester in a row at George Washington University, and her daughter who is on the honor roll. I hang up, then call my brother Alex in Nashua. Another success story, he's opening up his fifth internet cafe. As a dirt poor, part-time lab technician, I often think of myself as the mutated gene in the family.” Her assumption will shortly be challenged, and all other presumed bonds and barricades dramatically transformed in the course of Stratton’s brilliant chronicle reaffirming the inspirational and preservative powers of real love in our profoundly misprioritized society (officially speaking, that is), as in this snippet of dialogue between her and the aforementioned Dr. Strange:
“You’re on the run or something... no one can know where you are?”
“No, it’s not like that.”
“What is it like, then?”
“I told you, I ... now is not the time to... I wish you could just trust me. It’s not at all what you’re thinking.”
“Then you have to tell me what it is!”
“I... I just don’t... it’s not... ” he glances around; I do too. The place is so cold, so barren, so dusty.
“You’re lying to me! You’ve never even spent ten minutes here!” “Cassie, please... I’m not any of those things you think, I promise.”
“I’m going back to work.”
But as I turn back to the door he holds it shut with his big strong hand. “Wait.”
I’m scared to look at him, scared of what I’ll see in his eyes. “Let me go!”
“No, not like this.”
“Let me go, Palmer. Please! I won’t tell anyone about you!”
“Cassie, it’s not what you’re thinking!”
“I don’t like being lied to.”
“I haven’t lied to you!”
“Then tell me what’s going on!”
Far be it from me, but by all means, avail yourself of Ms. Stratton’s estimable literary acumen, samples of which may be found at her website. She is a prolific writer of prose (fiction, regular or flash, and nonfiction) and poetry who may also be contacted for assistance as a writing coach. Despite a possible distinction in our preferred methods of healing or disease prevention at present, we are both in agreement that it’s “not like that”, hers was the first and most inspirational response to this author’s inquiry, upon a recent intuition to ask around among published contacts, making her not simply an extremely talented writer, but a “writer’s writer” of exceptional skill and acuity.