Synopses & Reviews
A brilliant philosopher with a talent for self-destruction, Mason Ambrose has torpedoed a promising academic career and now faces a dead-end future. Before joining the ranks of the unemployed, however, he's approached by a representative of billionaire geneticist Dr. Edwina Sabacthani, who makes him an offer no starving ethicist could refuse. Born and bred on Isla de Sangre, a private island off the Florida coast, Edwina's beautiful and intelligent adolescent daughter, Londa, has recently survived a freak accident that destroyed both her memory and her sense of right and wrong. Londa's soul, in short, is an empty vessel and it will be Mason's job to fill it.
Exploring his new surroundings, our hero encounters a lush Eden abounding in bizarre animals and strange vegetation engineered by Edwina and her misanthropic collaborator, Dr. Vincent Charnock. And Londa, though totally lacking a conscience, proves a vivacious young woman who quickly captivates her new teacher as he attempts to recalibrate her moral compass with the help of Western civilization's greatest ethical thinkers, living and dead.
But there's trouble in this tropical paradise. Mason soon learns that he isn't the only private tutor on Isla de Sangre, nor is Londa the only child in residence whose conscience is a blank slate. How many daughters does Edwina Sabacthani really have, and how did she bring them into being?
Undaunted by these mysteries, Mason continues to instruct Londa, hoping that she can lead a normal life when she eventually ventures forth into human society. His apprentice, however, has a different agenda. Her head crammed with lofty ideals, her heart brimming with fearsome benevolence, and her bank account filled to bursting, Londa undertakes to remake our fallen world in her own image by any and all means necessary.
"With a talking iguana, a tree with a heart and an army of clones created from aborted fetuses, Morrow's latest is a treat for readers willing to take an imaginative leap. Philosophy ABD (all but dissertation) Mason Ambrose takes a job tutoring 17-year-old Londa Sabacthani after withdrawing his Ph.D. candidacy during a heated dissertation defense. Londa lost her moral center after a head injury, according to her mother, Edwina, a molecular geneticist with a reputation for being as 'smart as God,' and it's Mason's highly compensated duty to help Londa regain her conscience. Soon after arriving on Edwina's remote Florida Keys island home, Mason discovers a separate estate where five-year-old Donya lives with two tutors hired after she lost her 'rectitude' in a bicycle accident. Donya claims Edwina as her mother and, like Londa, believes she is an only child. The three tutors, sensing something grossly amiss, begin snooping and uncover a fertility scheme akin to a Dr. Frankenstein experiment. Meanwhile, Londa ventures out into the world and seeks to apply her newfound morality to American capitalism through whatever means necessary. Morrow guides readers through preposterous plot points without sacrificing plausibility. Strong characters, shots of humor and an unpredictable narrative make this a winner." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] tumultuous take on humanity, philosophy and ethics that is as hilarious as it is outlandish....[A] wildly ambitious morality play, a shrewd amalgamation of the sacred and the profane. Tips its hat with style to Mary Shelley and George Bernard Shaw." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] brilliant comedy of manners....Morrow is an inventive writer possessing a fine comic sensibility; the story is infused with wit and brio....Enthusiastically recommended." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Morrow's intellectual fervor irradiates The Philosopher's Apprentice
, but the warmth and empathy that characterized The Last Witchfinder
is absent. Satire needs to sing as well as sting." Elizabeth Hand, Washington Post Book World
(read the entire Washington Post Book World review
For Mason Ambrose, a failed philosopher with lots of smarts but not much common sense, the prospect of tutoring a lonely adolescent for a small fortune seems irresistible. But all is not as it seems, in this beguiling book from one of America's premier satirists.
About the Author
James Morrow is the author of nine previous novels, including The Last Witchfinder. He lives in State College, Pennsylvania.