Saving St. Germ
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Consumed by her pursuit of a Theory of Everything, a brilliant California scientist struggles to deal with life in and outside the lab
Doctor Esme Charbonneau Tallich’s passion is cosmology, the science of the origin of the universe; specifically, she is searching for a TOE, or a Theory of Everything. Esme is a feminist maverick, a rogue thinker. Hired as a professor of molecular biology at the University of Greater California, she prefers the “bench science” of organic chemistry at one extreme and “walking out into space” at the other. Her marriage to a TV director and aspiring stand-up comedian is rocky. Esme’s five-year-old daughter, Ollie, the sun in her galaxy, seems an enigma. Too readily diagnosed by professionals as “challenged,” even possibly autistic, she is, like Esme, a renegade thinker and creative mind. Her use of language is poetic, not deficit driven or conventional.
As her marriage dissolves, Esme’s struggle to maintain custody of Ollie and autonomy for herself and her work is set against the backdrop of the beckoning cosmos. Her tantalizing closeness to discovery of a grand unified theory—as psychiatric professionals, lawyers, and Esme’s estranged husband also close in on Ollie, seeking to medicate and restructure her—heightens tension while also offering hope. The discovery that Esme seeks is twofold: enlightenment and equilibrium in the troubled universes of her personal and professional lives. Saving St. Germ is a provocative, dramatic look at a single mother’s life at the edge of the universe—and the center of the human heart.
“A tragicomic tour de force.” —Newsday
“Accomplishes just what art is supposed to accomplish: it makes the world new.” —The New Yorker
“A truly original work of fiction.” —The New York Times Book Review
“It is engaging and irreverent, peopled by offbeat, sharply delineated characters. Long a highly regarded poet, Dukes has developed into a skilled novelist as well.” —Publishers Weekly
A New York Times Notable Book of 1993 Carol Muske-Dukes is the author of eight books of poems, four novels, and two essay collections, and is an editor of two anthologies, including Crossing State Lines: An American Renga, which she coedited with Bob Holman. Many of her books have been New York Times Notable selections. Muske-Dukes is a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Southern California, where she founded the PhD program in creative writing and literature, and she recently fulfilled her appointment as poet laureate of California, appointed by the governor’s office. Her poetry collection Sparrow was a National Book Award finalist and she is a six-time Pushcart Prize winner. She writes for the New York Times Book Review and the New York Times op-ed page, the Los Angeles Times, the Huffington Post, and the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog. Her poems have been published and anthologized widely, including in several editions of Best American Poetry. Muske-Dukes has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Library of Congress award, Barnes & Noble’s Writer for Writers Award, and many other honors. She lives in Southern California and New York.
From Publishers Weekly
© Publishers Weekly