I love a good book about bioethics. There’s something so addictive and propulsive about the apex where innovation and human life meet and the dangerous and potentially unknown consequences. Mother Knows Best puts the bioethical debate over DNA modification front and center.
Part thriller, part science fiction, Mother Knows Best tells the story of Claire, a 39-year old woman with a rare genetic disorder that affects her mitochondria. After her first son dies of complications caused by the hereditary disease, she seeks out renowned fertility doctor Robert Nash, who she believes can help her conceive a child who will not inherit her disease. With the help of his star research assistant Jillian, Claire is able to conceive. But when the press and the FDA get wind of Nash’s illegal experiment with human life, Claire and Nash flee, leaving Jillian to face the consequences entirely on her own.
Years later Claire and Robert are still living in secret with daughter Abigail. When Abigail gets the results of a school-sponsored DNA test, she starts asking questions. Questions that threaten to expose the life Claire and Robert have carefully built and put the three of the them in the cross-hairs of the most dangerous force of all, Jillian.
The story is told alternating the first person between the three women of the story, each representative of the motives that led to the creation of Abigail. Claire is the maternal love and hope for a child that has a life without suffering. Jillian is a scientific exploration and hunger for fame. Abigail is of a child looking for answers to the secrecy that has surrounded her since childhood. Together they form a cohesive storyline representing the motivations and challenges of genetic modification.
I found this story most intriguing and thought-provoking. Though the scenario was somewhat improbable, it was believable and brought just the right mix of science and heart.