Synopses & Reviews
Lucy Morrigan, a young genetic researcher, lives with her boyfriend, Gray, and an odd collection of tenants in her crumbling family mansion. Surrounded by four generations of clothes, photographs, furniture, and other remnants of past lives, Lucy and Grays home life is strangely out of touch with the modern worldexcept for Lucys high-tech lab in the basement.
Frustrated by her unsuccessful attempts to attain motherhood or tenure, Lucy takes drastic measures to achieve both. Using a bloodstained scrap of an apron found in the attic, Lucy successfully clones her grandmother Mary. But rather than conjuring a new baby, Lucy brings to life a twenty-two-year-old Mary, who is confused and disoriented when she finds herself trapped in the strangest sort of déjà vu: alive in a home that is no longer her own, surrounded by reminders of a life she has already lived but doesnt remember.
A remarkable debut novel, Mary Modern turns an unflinching eye on the joyous, heartbreaking, and utterly unexpected consequences of human desire.
About the Author
Camille DeAngelis received an M.A. from the National University of Ireland, Galway. She lives in New Jersey.
Reading Group Guide
1. The prologue states that there is nothing Lucys family relishes more than keeping secrets. However, Lucy is eager to share the work in her laboratory with Gray on their first date. Why do you think Lucy shared some secrets and kept others (like the existence of “the loop”)?
2. What are the major motivating forces for Lucys increasingly desperate actions? Do her actions ultimately make her feel more or less alone?
3. Mary enters the world with eight lost decades, and she is understandably disoriented. How does Marys confusion put Lucys loneliness in perspective?
4. When Gray notices her mothers wedding ring on her finger, Lucy jokes, “I hope youre not a Freudian” (page 11). How does the humor add to your understanding of the characters and situations? Which other scenes in the novel are comical and what makes them funny? Could these same scenes also be understood as distressing or sad?
5. Is asking Gray to move in with her a considered decision or an example of Lucys impulsivity? Does taking on boarders and asking Gray to move in succeed in making her less lonely?
6. As a new couple, Gray and Lucy fall immediately into a marriage-like pattern of Scrabble, Chinese take-out Mondays, and co-ownership of a car. Do you think Gray and Lucy were happy in the beginning or did Gray immediately become like the photographs on Lucys walls, which made her “feel like being at a party where shed exhausted all topics of conversation” (page 27)?
7. An unusual aspect of the novel is the inclusion of passages that break up the story–such as the sections of DNA code and the pages from Everyday Life in the Twenty-First Century. How effective are these sections in helping immerse the reader in the world of Mary Modern?
8. What effect did the story of Marys and Teddys early relationship (pages 4554) have on you? In addition to the differences due to the time period and customs, how is the story of Lucys grandparents early relationship different from Lucys and Grays? How is it similar?
9. Mary Modern touches on current hot-button issues, such as stem cell research and cloning. Though Megan is firmly in favor of stem cell research, is she right when she says to Lucy, “People like you are precisely why what were doing is illegal …” (page 82).
10. Lucy admits that she was blinded by a combination of ambition and baby lust, but she imagines that she would have stopped her experiment if Gray had only given her an ultimatum. Do you think she would have given up her quest to clone her grandmother if Gray had stood up to her? How much is Grays lack of a backbone to blame for the outcome, and should he have done more to stop her?
11. A friend once said of Lucy, “You think shes nice? Just get to know her better” (page 162). Is Lucy an innately cold or mean person? What do you think could be standing in the way between Lucy and other people?
12. Both Mary and Teddy wake up decades in the future, but Mary seems to adapt to the changes more slowly than Teddy. Why do you think that is true?
13. The author ties the themes of the novel into current national politics. Is the author describing the current Republican party in the excerpt of Everyday Life in the Twenty-First Century, when Godfrey calls the G.O.P. a “party of bigots, hypocrites, zealots, the obscenely, insanely wealthy, and all those duped by their thinly veiled falsehoods…” (page 241)? If so, do you agree or disagree? Is that description an exaggeration or is it accurate?
14. What do you think about Lucys final interaction with Gray? Was her reaction beneath her or was it what you would expect from Lucy?
15. Reverend Fuller is a Machiavellian villain who uses religion to justify a crime. Does the author mean to say that illegal or brutal means can never be justified by any end, no matter how “good” the end is? Do you think there are other exceptions?
In Mary Modern, Camille DeAngelis uses a politically and morally charged story to create a richly textured portrait of modern love and loneliness. The questions and discussion topics below are designed to enhance your enjoyment of a novel that deftly explores the magic of romance and the endurance of love.