Monday, February 21, 2011

The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady

Hi Flower.

How do you feel about monster movies from the 1950's? I'm not a fan but I'm not a hater. I like the poster art from those films but I have no desire to spend time watching them. You have heard of and maybe seen Attack of the 50 Ft Woman. That title and revenge of the housewife theme play into the new novel The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady. My ambivalence toward monster movies in general almost made me not read this very good novel. Silly me. It is just as interesting to see what will make you turn away from a book as it is to see what will make you pick a book up don't you think?

In another of those marvelous anecdotes that becomes unburied and astounds us all it turns out that between 1945 and 1949, 800+ pregnant women were told by doctors at Vanderbilt University Hospital that the radioactive iron they were given was a vitamin that would enhance their health and that of their unborn children. The experiment was to see if the children would be protected from the radioactivity by the placenta. They weren't. In The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady author
Elizabeth Stuckey-French has imagined a revenge for one of those mothers.

Fifty years, a class action suit, a formal apology from Federal Government and the death of her eight year old child from cancer later, 77 year old Mary Ahearn is looking for a piece of her own back. She has searched for and found the obstetrician who gave her those lethal vitamins, Dr. Wilson Spriggs. Mary is determined to have her vengeance by killing Dr. Spriggs but she is not quite sure how to best to pull it off. She moves to Tallahassee to be near the doctor. She will ingratiate herself into his life somehow and is confident that a plan will present itself.

Dr. Spriggs is living in Florida with his son's very dysfunctional family. The son ignores the hurricane within his family to follow hurricanes on the computer. Two of the grandchildren have Asperger's Syndrome and the third will do anything for attention. The daughter-in-law is a worn out caregiver who would run away from her children if given half a chance. The doctor himself is as hateful as he has always been but he now has Alzheimer’s. He can't remember what happened ten minutes ago but he can remember enough of his past to help his grandson build a bomb in the shed.

Mary quickly infiltrates the Spriggs home, but killing the Doctor is a little more difficult. It's not that Mary lacks the will to do the deed, not at all. The opportunity for murder is elusive and killing Dr. Sprigg without being able to make him understand why has it's frustrations. So Mary turns her clever attention to destroying his family and that becomes very easy. Mary finds and exploits the weaknesses of each family member. It can be somewhat uncomfortable as a reader to watch these events unfold not only because some of the consequences of Mary's manipulations are repugnant but because at the same time they can be funny.

Elizabeth Stuckey-French does an remarkable balancing act in The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady. Is Mary justified in her revenge? Stuckey-French took that awful experiment perpetrated on those Mothers in 1945, grief, retaliation and brought in danger, humor (dark and light), the unpredictability of being human and came up with a story that is a uniquely entertaining look at morality.


  1. Thank you SO much for your thoughtful review of my novel. I really appreciate all you do for writers and readers!

  2. Wow. I'm thrilled you even saw the review. I did enjoy the book a lot and even better I still think about it. Good luck with it and I'll be watching for the next one!