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 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.
Part Wellsian dystopia, part medical mystery, part Hawthornian allegory, and part reality show, The Colony is a potent exploration of ethics in the Age of the Genome. But Weise’s novel is not merely an exceedingly smart and formally elegant novel of ideas--it is also a deeply compelling character-driven drama. Anne Hatley’s voice is irresistible--witty, assured, sexy, righteous, wounded. The Colony is a tremendous success, one of the most exciting first novels in recent memory.
A debut that should be cause for much rejoicing. Jillian Weise’s The Colony does everything that fans of the traditional novel look for: it’s a coming-of-age tale, a razor-sharp comedy of eros, a meditation on ’disability’ and the misguided ways in which we purport to ’fix’ it, a scorched-earth denunciation of eugenics. And Anne Hatley--vulnerable and strong in equal measure, delightfully cranky, conflicted--is one of the most memorable protagonists in recent American fiction. But the novel’s triumph is that it accomplishes all these things without ever stooping to conventionality. Endlessly inventive, The Colony features tète-à-tètes with Charles Darwin in Applebee’s, mermaids bred from dugongs and kept in a water tower by one of the co-discoverers of DNA, a woman whose ’fat gene’ is being treated in a way that eventually requires her to be tethered to earth. Weise’s grace, wit, and imaginative fearlessness mark her as a writer to be reckoned with for the long haul. The Colony is clever and playful, yes, but there’s no mistaking this for whimsy--Weise’s is a playfulness backed by steel.
Readers who can handle the hair-raising experience of Jillian Weise’s gutsy poetry debut . . . will be rewarded with an elegant examination of intimacy and disability and a fearless dissection of the taboo and the hidden.
The poems . . . perform an earthy, flamenco-like stomp and full-throated Whitmanesque song (the extended remix), reaching notes as daring and feeling as crushingly good-looking.
I’m convinced these are the kind of poems that change a reader’s life.
With deadpan heartbreak and powerful invention, Jillian Weise raids the border-territories between the human body and the arts, creating in her poetry a devastating imaginary space . . . This is a lovely and unsettling debut.
In her charged and daring verse debut, Weise artfully interweaves biographical details with meditations on the history of disability and sex . . . An agile and powerful poet, Weise references medical literature, history and poetry, speaking boldly and compassionately about a little-discussed subject that becomes universal in her careful hands.