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behind regional and global politics (including a village elder, keeper of the synagogue, who cites a proverb that could serve as the novel's epigraph : "Better that my enemy should see good in me than I should see evil in him") and at precise descriptions of real-world complexities. The narrator , for example, is not only a Druze, adhering to Islam without being considered strictly a Muslim, since this faith "spans Sufism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity," but a Druze of the GaliUee, sharing "a common diplomacy " with the region's Jews. To evoke such complexities in one human being, along with thoughts, emotions and sensations—ranging from the ideological to the physical— that come from awareness in the contemporary world is to fulfill one of the greatest aims of literature. For that reason The Cyclist is worth reading , even if one of literature's other aims, pleasure, is qualified at the outset by Berberian's choice of subject. (SS) Longfor this World by Michael Byers Houghton Mifflin, 2003, 432 pp., $24.00 Michael Byers's empathetic debut novel is set in booming late-1990s Seattle. Dr. Henry Moss is a geneticist specializing in the Hickman syndrome , a rare disease that causes its young victims to age prematurely. Henry's medical ethics are tested when the situation of one family— whose three-year-old boy has been recently diagnosed with the syndrome while their vitriolic seventeen-yearold son tests positive but does not suffer from the symptoms—provides a miraculous breakthrough in Henry 's research. The discovery of a possible cure, along with the doctor's strong personal affection for William Durbin, a local Hickman patient, pushes Henry to risk his reputation and career. With the sanction of his wife, Ilse, Henry goes forward with a risky plan. He begins testing an enzymatic treatment on young William before establishing the proper experimental protocol through years of animal testing. As children of the expert, Darren and Sandra Moss are in the position of likely friends for those affected with Hickman. Fourteen-year-old Darren, in love with a popular girl who seems less and less interested in him, takes a break from his lackluster love life to befriend William Durbin. By nurturing a clandestine relationship (consisting mostly of late-night phone conversations about astronomy and time travel) with his father's patient, Darren tests his own adolescent limits and emerges from the experience a surprisingly insightful teenager. He is stül a young man, struggling with hormonal change and all the accompanying fireworks, but already there is something in him of his father's grand humanity. Sandra, a high school junior and basketball phenomenon, doesn't seek out a Hickman sufferer; in fact, she does almost the opposite when she begins hanging out with the physically perfect Thomas Benhamouda, the seventeen-year-old asymptomatic positive who is the key to a Hickman cure. Thomas is certainly less than charming, but Sandra, in part because of her sexual attraction to him and in part because he's too shallow to let others into his Hickman-affected home, The Missouri Review · 195 allows friendless Thomas a little of her pity and affection. The Moss family is interesting enough—each member blessed with goofy charm and a hopefulness of doing great things—but Byers's novel is most successful in its quieter moments spent with William Durbin. Without gross sentimentality, the novel throws us into the heartbreaking culture of his sickness. Here's a boy who has always had to deal with syringes and hospital rooms and a rapidly degenerating body. He is mature beyond his years, and there's a frightening weight to much of his speech—sometimes to a fault. All of this, we are reminded, happens in the midst of unreal economic vigor, in a boomtown. While William is fighting for his life, the Mosses' neighbors are all selling their homes for three times their worth. Amazon and Microsoft are on an exponential rise, apparently without a ceiling. (But we know better.) Even William Durbin knows a bubble when he sees one. When everyone believes something is never going to end, he says, "That's a perfect signit's almost over." He...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 195-196
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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