About the Book
“Joy Sorman’s Life Sciences takes an overtly political premise—the medical establishment’s inability or perhaps refusal to take seriously the physical struggles of women—and transforms it into a surreal and knife-deep work of fiction that asks: What pain can we abide, and what pain must we fight back against, even if the fight hurts more than the disease itself?” —Lena Dunham, The New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice
Ninon Moise is cursed. So is her mother Esther, as was every eldest female member of her family going back to the Middle Ages. Each generation is marked by a uniquely obscure disease, illness, or ailment—one of her ancestors was patient zero in the sixteenth-century dancing plague of Strasbourg, while Esther has a degenerative eye disease. Ninon grows up comforted and fascinated by the recitation of these bizarre, inexplicable medical mysteries, forewarned that something will happen to her, yet entirely unprepared for how it will alter her life. Her own entry into this litany of maladies appears one morning in the form of an excruciating burning sensation on her skin, from her wrists to her shoulders.
Embarking on a dizzying and frustrating cycle of doctors, specialists, procedures, needles, scans, and therapists, seventeen-year-old Ninon becomes consumed by her need to receive a diagnosis and find a cure for her ailment. She seeks to break the curse and reclaim her body by any means necessary, through increasing isolation and failed treatment after failed treatment, even as her life falls apart. A provocative and empathic questioning of illness, remedy, transmission, and health, Life Sciences poignantly questions our reliance upon science, despite its limitations, to provide all the answers.