Grey Matter


Were it not for the recent initiation of quiet reading time with Laurel, my contact with novels was in great danger of extinction. Luckily, a fabulous book that I received from my pal Kate helped me get back on the wagon.

Intuition may be relatively old news around Boston (author Allegra Goodman is based in Cambridge, as is the story), but this 2006 novel, detailing a plot set within the complicated, grey area-ridden existence that is research academics, is truly compelling and deserves continued kudos.

It’s no surprise that someone with my academic training would pounce on this book, but you need not be familiar with NIH grant cycles to become absorbed. The story centers on a flailing postdoctoral research fellow who is on the brink of termination, then finds new life and stature in the lab when his experiments suddenly start working. The lab heads clash on how to handle the promising results, the postdoc’s jealous ex-girlfriend/labmate becomes obsessed with proving that the findings were fabricated, and legal and interpersonal heartache ensues.

Goodman pens multidimensional characters, deftly portraying the stress and competition that cuts through the heart of high-pressure academia. But the problems that can accompany workplaces that blur professional lines in an effort to be both productive and chummy no doubt will ring familiar, even if you don't call academia your home.

Available at Amazon; regularly $25, currently on sale for $16.50