THE REVENGE OF THE RADIOACTIVE LADY

Elizabeth Stuckey-French

A Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year

Marylou Ahearn is going to kill Dr. Wilson Spriggs. In 1953, the good doctor gave her a radioactive cocktail without her consent, and Marylou has been plotting her revenge ever since. When she discovers his whereabouts in Florida, she hightails it to Tallahassee, moves in down the block from where he resides with his daughter, Caroline, and begins the tricky work of insinuating herself into his life. But she has no idea what a nest of yellow jackets she’s stumbled into. Spriggs is senile, his daughter’s on the verge of collapse,

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A Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year

Marylou Ahearn is going to kill Dr. Wilson Spriggs. In 1953, the good doctor gave her a radioactive cocktail without her consent, and Marylou has been plotting her revenge ever since. When she discovers his whereabouts in Florida, she hightails it to Tallahassee, moves in down the block from where he resides with his daughter, Caroline, and begins the tricky work of insinuating herself into his life. But she has no idea what a nest of yellow jackets she’s stumbled into. Spriggs is senile, his daughter’s on the verge of collapse, and his grandchildren are a mess of oddballs, leaving Marylou wondering whether she’s really meant to ruin their lives … or fix them.

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  • Anchor
  • Paperback
  • January 2012
  • 352 Pages
  • 9781400034864

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About Elizabeth Stuckey-French

Elizabeth Stuckey-French is the author of the novel Mermaids on the Moon and the story collection The First Paper Girl in Red Oak, Iowa. Her short fiction has also appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Gettysburg Review, Southern Review, Five Points, and other literary journals. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida, where she teaches fiction writing at Florida State University.

Praise

“The best kind of page-turner—one with heart.”The Boston Globe

The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady, is the sort of book that one devours quickly and then thinks, ‘I’ll have another just like that, please.’ The trouble, of course, is that it’s difficult to find another book quite like this one.”The New Yorker

“Charmingly off-kilter. . . . A smart and improbably cheerful tale about family that’s actually quite sweet at its core.”People

“One funny story. . . . Stuckey-French makes her domestic satire work precisely by not backing away from its darkness—and also by giving us characters who are complex and believable enough to stay with even when the going gets weird.”St. Petersburg Times

Discussion Questions

Do you believe that revenge is ever justified, and under what circumstances? To what extent do you sympathize with Marylou’s decision to move to Tallahassee and stalk Wilson Spriggs? What do you think you would have done in her situation?

Are there ways in which Otis and Ava’s having Asperger’s Syndrome is similar to the radiation experiment that Marylou experienced? How are the two situations different?

Asperger’s Syndrome affects Otis differently than Ava. What do you know about Asperger’s and other neuro-disorders on the autism spectrum? Does the book seem to speak authentically to the ways in which Asperger’s Syndrome affects both boys and girls differently? In what ways do you think Suzi’s problems are a consequence of having two siblings with Asperger’s?

What’s the biggest problem in Vic and Caroline’s marriage? What do you think’s going to happen to them?

What does it mean to forgive someone? How important is it to forgive, and to be forgiven? What role does religion play in this novel?

Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

Quite likely you were surprised by the change in Wilson and Marylou’s relationship, but did you find their relationship believable? Understandable? Why or why not? Why do you think it takes the turn it does?

As the novel’s acknowledgements reveal, the radiation experiments in this book are based on actual experiments carried out on U. S. citizens during the Cold War. Do you think such experiments are ever justified? Even if you don’t, how do you think scientists and government officials justified them to themselves?

The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady is told from multiple points of view. Though always third-person limited, the point of view shifts from character to character with each chapter. Did you find this technique effective? What does it allow that first-person or third-person omniscient would not have allowed?

Stuckey-French is known for her dark humor. Do you find this novel humorous? If so, what parts did you find funniest and what are the sources of the book’s humor?