Anne Hatley is a sharp-witted and acerbic young teacher from the South, in need of a reprieve from the drudgery of work and an increasingly tedious relationship. She accepts an invitation to the nation’s largest research colony, where scientists—DNA pioneer James D. Watson among them—hope to “cure” Anne of a rare gene that affects her bone growth: She is missing a leg and walks with a prosthesis. Anne feels fine the way she is, and she strives to maintain her resolve under pressure from her peers and from doctors eager to pioneer an experimental procedure, which would make her the first patient to generate a new leg. Meanwhile, she falls into a reluctant romance with the rakish Nick, possessor of the “suicide gene”; befriends Charles Darwin, who is on site digging through the eugenics archive; and attempts to come to terms with her first love.
The Colony is the story of one young woman struggling to accept who she is, and who she will become. But it is also a novel that mines some of the most polarizing issues of our time—among them, medical ethics, body image, and genetic engineering.
The Colony is clever and playful, yes, but there’s no mistaking this for whimsy—Weise’s is a playfulness backed by steel.
The Colony is howlingly funny and deeply sad. It is touching and toweringly angry. It is melancholy and lavishly sexual. It is unique—but it speaks with graceful force to everyone. I read many novels and forget many, but I will never forget what Jillian Weise has so brilliantly set down. Neither will you. Please try it. You will thank me.
Jillian Weise is a troublemaker. We need more writers like her, more novels like her hilarious, deeply moving, sexy, scary novel The Colony, which is about gene therapy, Watson and Crick, excessive alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking, mortality, finding love, finding a home, finding family, and all the other doomed experiments we conduct in the hope in making a better human.