Dial Press Trade Paperback, 385 pages
I found this book referenced on Acephalous, and knew I had to check it out. (BTW, despite what Acephalous says, the book clearly states it takes place in the mid eighties on page four, and there are several contemporary-to-the-eighties references throughout the novel.)
Basically, the book takes place in a small research lab affiliated with Harvard where biomedical research involving cancer is being done. Goodman makes the science understandable by not ever really talking about it, so that the reader has no idea what these characters actually do all day, but she seems to have gotten the social and political aspects of being in a lab just right.
The story follows the research of Cliff, who is trying to use R-7 to cure mice of their tumors, is told by his superiors that it's a dead end, and then miraculously starts getting good data out of the project. The pressures that this sudden success places on his relationship with another postdoc, Robin, eventually lead to a falling-out between the two of them, and Robin's inability to get R-7 to work on any other groups of mice leads her to call fraud on the drug.
Along the way, we meet maybe a dozen or so other main characters, all of whom Goodman gives rich inner lives -- she's very good at clearly delineating her characters from one another based on motivation, and making the reader see the way in which personal biases affect each person's response to the situation in front of them.
It is kind of a small book though, despite being a touch overlong. It has no clear meaning, and the ending is I think ambiguous in a bad way. It's a fascinating look at the world of real-life research, but I would have preferred it to be a bit more technically savvy, and to be a bit tighter. I did enjoy the way the author keeps the reader on his/her toes regarding the central mystery, though -- it's only towards the last pages of the book that we understand what really is happening with the mice, and no one other than the perpetrator could have really understood the resolution there.
Overall, a nice read, with good characters, but nothing all that special.