09/27/2012 5:30 pm
Marco Roth is the author of The Scientists: A Family Romance (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $23 hb, less 10% in the store).
A frank, intelligent, and deeply moving debut memoir.
With the precociousness expected of the only child of a doctor and a classical musician--from the time he could get his toddler tongue to pronounce a word like "De-oxy ribonucleic acid," or recite a French poem--Marco Roth was able to share his parents' New York, a world centered around house concerts, a private library of literary classics, and dinner discussions of the latest advances in medicine. That world ended when his father started to suffer the worst effects of the AIDS virus that had infected him in the early 1980s.
What this family could not talk about for years came to dominate the lives of its surviving members, often in unexpected ways. "The Scientists" is a story of how we first learn from our parents and how we then learn to see them as separate individuals; it's a story of how precociousness can slow us down when it comes to knowing about our desires and other people's. A memoir of parents and children in the tradition of Edmund Gosse, Henry Adams, and J.R. Ackerley, "The Scientists "grapples with a troubled intellectual and emotional inheritance, in a style that is both elegiac and defiant.