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Cure for Modern Life (Tucker)

The Cure for Modern Life 
Lisa Tucker, 2008
Simon & Schuster
368 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780743492805


Summary
Matthew and Amelia were once in love and planning to raise a family together, but a decade later, they have become professional enemies. To Amelia, who has dedicated her life to medical ethics, Matthew's job as a high-powered pharmaceutical executive has turned him into a heartless person who doesn't care about anything but money. Now they're kept in balance only by Matthew's best and oldest friend, Ben, a rising science superstar — and Amelia's new boyfriend.

That balance begins to crumble one night when, coming home to his upscale Philadelphia loft, Matthew finds himself on a desolate bridge face-to-face with a boy screaming for help. Homeless for most of his life, ten-year-old Danny is as streetwise as he is world-weary, and his desperation to save his three-year-old sister means he will do whatever it takes to get Matthew's help. What follows is an escalating game of one-upmanship between Matthew, Amelia, and Danny, as all three players struggle to defend what is most important to them — and are ultimately forced to reconsider what they truly want.

Dazzlingly written with a riveting story that will resonate with readers everywhere, Lisa Tucker's The Cure for Modern Life is a smart, humorous, big-hearted novel about what it means in the twenty-first century to be responsible, to care about other people, and to do the right thing. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—N/A
Where—near Kansas City, Missouri, USA
Education—B.A., University of Pennsylvania; M.A.'s, U of
   Penn and Villanova University
Currently—lives in both Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and
   Sante Fe, New Mexico  


Lisa Tucker grew up in a small town in Missouri and held a string of odd jobs before becoming a writer. In her novels, Tucker's dedication to storytelling is evident; her tender, engrossing plotlines infused with wit keep readers turning the pages.

In 2003, Tucker burst upon the scene with The Song Reader, a moving coming-of-age drama that resonated as much with adolescents as with adult readers. The novel's narrator, a vulnerable preteen named Leeann Norris, recounts the story of her adored older sister Mary Beth, a hardworking young woman who supports them both after their mother's death by waiting tables and reading songs—that is, interpreting the events in people's lives by analyzing the songs they can't get out of their heads. When this extraordinary gift turns inward and a devastating family secret is revealed, Leeann must reach inside herself to save the sister she loves. Selected by Book Sense for its 2004-2005 reading group, The Song Reader received glowing reviews, and Tucker was hailed as "a brilliant new literary talent" (The Albuquerque Tribune).

Since her bestselling debut, Tucker has gone on to craft more compelling, emotionally nuanced novels that have garnered praise from sundry quarters. Her work has appeared in Seventeen magazine, Pages, and The Oxford American; and her short story "Why Go" (inspired by the classic Pearl Jam tune) was included in Lit Riffs: Writers "Cover" Songs They Love, an anthology of music-related fiction by Jonathan Lethem, Tom Perotta, and other contemporary writers.

Her novel, The Cure for Modern Life, was published in 2008.

Tucker is also a talented teacher who has taught creative writing at the Taos Conference, at UCLA, and at the University of Pennsylvania.

Extras
From 2004 Barnes & Noble interview:

• I started writing fiction in 1995 for no other reason than that I loved reading it. I'd never had a creative writing course or attended a workshop; I didn't know any writers. I still feel there's something so magical about just plunging in and learning the craft as you go.

• I've had a lot of jobs. Probably the most unusual things I've done are touring the Midwest and South with a jazz band and teaching math at an urban community college.

• Of all the nice things that have been said about my novels in reviews, I think Frank Wilson's description of my characters (in The Philadelphia Inquirer) had the most meaning to me:

These aren't the human orchids populating so much of what gets called literary fiction. These are working stiffs, the store clerks and waitresses who inhabit Heartland America [and] Tucker has drawn them without condescension.

No one else had mentioned this, but I do write about ordinary people, the kind I grew up with and still identify with. I used to get rejections that said no one would care about these people's lives. I'm so glad that hasn't proved true!

• I love teaching almost as much as I love writing and hope to have a chance to do it again. I also desperately want to live closer to water. Anyone know of a teaching gig near the ocean? (From Barnes & Noble.)



Book Reviews
Tucker's book works because she knows how to limn characters, tell a story economically, and propel it at just the right allegro-vivace tempo.
Philadelphia Inquirer


Lisa Tucker, once again, brings a fresh view to the intricacies of relationships in The Cure for Modern Life...Tucker continues to grow as a writer, and The Cure gives readers some ethical questions to ponder. It's an approach that has long been Jodi Picoult territory, but Tucker comes at it from a different direction. The questions aren't the source of the plot, but they drive the relationships among central characters. It's a structure that should make the novel attractive to book groups who've enjoyed Picoult's work
Denver Post


The Cure for Modern Life is so inviting because it's about people we all know, or at least think we know—Tucker deftly forces us to ponder what we'd do in this exploration of the complexity of human nature and our relationships with one another.
Salt Lake City Tribune


The conflict of right and wrong runs strong throughout this story, as the lives of a business executive and his ex-girlfriend intersect with that of a homeless boy. Lisa Tucker gets at the heart of human emotion while also bringing to light the ethical and moral decisions faced in business. Her characters will stay with you long after you finish the novel
Seattle Post-Intelligencer


(Starred review.) Tucker offers a cure for modern readers seeking an enjoyable literary page-turner that also explores serious social issues such as addiction, ethics and genetics. Tucker's fourth and most ambitious novel is her first to have a male protagonist. Sardonic and emotionally aloof, Matthew Connelly directs his energies away from romantic entanglements and toward his work as an executive at pharmaceutical giant Astor-Denning. His bitter ex-girlfriend, Amelia, works as a medical ethics watchdog and is poised to take Matthew and his company down. But the appearance of homeless 10-year-old Danny and his toddler sister shakes up the lives of the combustible pair. In crisp, lively prose, Tucker cleverly executes a series of surprising twists that, coupled with the Big Pharma backdrop and cinematic feel, make the novel as fast-paced as a thriller, but with astute and often humorous observations about the shifting morality of 21st-century America. The relationship dilemmas at the center of this story make it an excellent choice for book clubs, but the novel should also increase Tucker's male readership and solidify her position as a gifted writer with a wide range and a profound sense of compassion for the mysteries of the human heart.
Publishers Weekly


Tucker’s fourth book...shows [her] to be a natural-born storyteller who is developing an increasingly sophisticated technique. Here she seamlessly weaves together a touching and very modern relationship story with some compelling social issues, including medical ethics, homelessness, and corporate greed. Underlying the whole is a multifaceted analysis of what it means to be a good person in the twenty-first century... This fast-paced, funny, and smart novel is a sure bet for book clubs
Booklist



Discussion Questions 
1. Though Danny is only ten years old, he's clearly wise beyond his years. His mother, Kim, says he's "closer to forty in his harsh judgments of other people." He holds himself to a standard of "knighthood," his personal code of honor and dignity. What other admirable qualities do you see in Danny? What are his flaws? What kind of person do you imagine he will grow up to be?

2. In his experience begging on the streets of Philadelphia, Danny discovers that people are more willing to give money to a child who needs train fare home than to a child who is hungry or homeless. Do you think this is most likely the case? Why do you think some people may avoid the situations that are obviously the most desperate?

3. Amelia comes from a very socially conscious background. Her whole life, she has grappled with the question, "Why do such bad things happen to innocent people?" What do you think of the logic that is offered by her philosophy class: "Bad things happen to all people. All people includes innocent people. Therefore, bad things happen to innocent people" (p.44)? How does Amelia's preoccupation with this idea color her view of the world?

4. Amelia considers herself a champion of the underdog, the ultimate truth-teller and moralist. Which instances in the book show Amelia living up to this role? When does she stray from these ideals? Would you consider her a hypocrite, and why?

5. In order to make the difficult decision to send his mother away to a drug rehabilitation program, Danny says he "had to learn to harden his heart." Are there any other instances of hearts becoming hardened in this book? When do you see hearts  softened?

6. Though he's confronted with caring for a seriously drug-addicted person, Matthew also takes various drugs throughout the book — for anxiety, sleep, headaches, and, in the opening scene, just for kicks. Are you comfortable with Matthew's claim that he simply endorses the safety of the products he promotes, or is there a deeper irony at play here? What does the book say about drug usage, both prescribed and illicit, in this country today?

7. Though Amelia and Ben seem perfectly paired in their values and global ambitions, Amelia has her frustrations and admits that "living with a hero turned out to be a lot harder than she'd ever imagined." Do you think Ben is heroic? Is he ever a failure or a coward? Why is it so hard to live with a hero?

8. What does Matthew mean when he says to Amelia on page 247, "I can't give you a cure for modern life?" Why do you think the author chose this as her title? In our modern lives, what, if anything, do we need to be cured of?

9. Amelia and Ben each have very difficult choices to make when complications arise in Amelia's pregnancy. How do you think each of them handled the situation?

10. The book begins, "Was Matthew Connolly a bad man?" How did your assessment of Matthew change from the beginning to the end of this book? How is he judged at different points by each of the other characters — Danny, Isabelle, Ben, Amelia, Kim?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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