About the Book
In 1923, having persuaded her resistant mother to send her to college, Kate Croft falls in love with science. Painfully rebuffed by a girl she longs for, and in flight from her own confusing sexuality, Kate finds refuge in the calm rationality of biology: its vision of a deeply interconnected world, and the promise that the new field of genetics can explain the way people are.
But science, too, turns out to be marred by human weakness. Despite her hard work and extraordinary gifts, Kate struggles, facing discrimination, competition, and scientific theft. At the same time, a love affair is threatened by Kate’s obsession with figuring out the meaning of the puzzling changes she sees in her experiments. The novel explores what it takes to triumph in the ruthless world of mid-20th-century genetics, following Kate as she decides what she is—and is not—willing to sacrifice to succeed.
Praise for In the Field
Rachel Pastan has written a compelling and compulsively readable tale about a complex woman’s path to success in biological science—showing us, through subtle social conflicts and in lucid evocative prose, the difficulties of entering any field as an unconventional, impassioned participant.
―Harold Varmus (Lewis Thomas University Professor, Weill Cornell Medicine; Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine)
Rachel Pastan’s In the Field is a thoroughly engrossing and timely adjacent-to-reality story about many things at once, both intimate and “public.” I was most compelled by its reminder that the pursuit of scientific discovery challenges its actors with painful moral dilemmas, dramatic choices at every turn. Her Barbara McClintock stand-in travels a road littered with so many boulders that her ultimate “success” is a cheering but complicated destination.
―Rosellen Brown, author of Before and After and Lake on Fire
Praise for Rachel Pastan
Alena is so eerie and elegantly suspenseful that I could see myself rereading it, the way I reread Rebecca every few years or so.
―Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air
Alena is often a brilliant takedown of the self-serious art world, rendering it helplessly camp by sprinkling some of its august and/or provocative names…
―Alex Kuczynski, New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
In her luminous and sure-footed new novel, Alena, Rachel Pastan has taken on a daunting task: borrowing the basic story of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, transporting it to contemporary times and setting it in an isolated art museum on Cape Cod.
―Carolyn Parkhurst, The Washington Post
Hitchcockian suspense infiltrates the cloistered contemporary art scene in Pastan’s riveting third novel… Flush with erotic intrigues and insights into real, working artists, Pastan has written a smart, chilling thriller that leaves readers thoroughly spooked.
Rachel Pastan’s Alena is at once a meticulously reconstructed death scene and an intelligent conversation about the nature of art; this skillfully crafted novel, which sustains the tension of a ghost story, is both an homage to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and an insightful meditation on our obsessive preoccupation with death – simultaneously creepy and entrancing.
Rachel Pastan has written a novel about families and falling in love that is at once moving, funny, and true. This Side of Married is a wedding bouquet of great wit and affection.
―Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings
About the Author
Rachel Pastan is the author of three previous novels, most recently Alena, which was named an Editors’ Choice in The New York Times Book Review. The daughter of a molecular geneticist and a poet, she has worked as editor at large at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, and taught fiction writing at the Bennington Writing Seminars, Swarthmore College, and elsewhere. (Author photo credit: Andy Shelter)