by Richard Powers

Arlene Almas: This book is labeled as an "enhancement" rather than a novel; perhaps it refers to one of the two narrative strands, the one which deals with Thomas Kurton's research into genomic enhancement of human beings. What I would call the main strand is the story of Russell Stone, an editor who moonlights as an adjunct professor of Creative Nonfiction at an art college in Chicago. One of his students stands out from all the rest: Thassadit Amzwar, originally from Algeria, has a joyful, extroverted personality in spite of the terrors she faced growing up in her war-torn country of origin. It's not long before everyone in the class of about a dozen students, including Russell, becomes enchanted with Thassa, and the whole group become close friends. Russell is so puzzled by Thassa's unexplainable happiness that he consults Candace Weld, a campus psychologist, and the two of them form a three-way bond with Thassa. The aforementioned Kurton links back to this story when he attempts to discover if there is something in Thassa's genome which might be responsible for her irrepressible joyfulness. The results go viral around the world, and Russell, Candace, and Thassa's classmates must find a way to bring her life back to normal. I loved everything about this book, the very human characters and the geeky scientific stuff as well. I rate it terrific!
Rating: *****

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