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Soho Press, 2016
In 1919, when she graduated from Vassar College with a degree in psychology, Rosalie Rayner took a coveted position at the Johns Hopkins research lab to assist charismatic John B. Watson, the man who pioneered behaviorist psychology. Together, Watson and Rayner conducted experiments on hundreds of babies to prove behaviorist principles of nurture over nature, including the controversial "Little Albert" study, in which they fear-conditioned an infant. Watson and Rayner also embarked on a scandalous affair that cost them their jobs and forever changed the trajectory of both pioneering psychologists' lives. Both moving and occasionally disturbing, Behave is a thought-provoking and compelling novel about science, progress, love, and the meaning of motherhood during the turbulent 1920s and '30s.
A March 2016 Amazon Best Book of the Month
A March 2016 People Magazine Pick: "Riveting"
An April 2016 Indie Next Pick
(One of ) 10 Books Every BadAss Woman Should Read: San Francisco Books Review
Praise for Behave
"Offers a rich and nuanced glimpse of Rosalie Rayner, the woman behind John B. Watson, the man who founded the psychological theory of behaviorism. The ethical issues presented here are both shocking and thought-provoking; and the intimate struggles of a woman weighing her value, utility, and satisfaction both within and outside the home certainly resonate today."
The Boston Globe
"If you want an engaging read which will not only entertain you but also teach you a great deal about these giants in the history of psychology, and the ethics of those times which we now see as abhorrent, I recommend Behave!"
"Rayner could not have found it easy to be exiled from the lab, or to raise her sons according to a behaviorist program, which regards 'mother love,' as the real Rayner put it, as 'an instrument which may inflict a never-healing wound.' This novel suggests the pain of wanting, and failing, to behave."
The New York Times Book Review
“A fascinating exploration of ethical and psychological unraveling. Behave carefully excavates the plight of one of science’s forgotten women to create a tale of ambition, love, and the fears that shape us all. With the skill and confidence of a master, Andromeda Romano-Lax crafts a deeply personal narrative of a complex woman who lived in history’s gaps. Quite simply, I tore through this book and so should you.”
Erika Swyler, author of The Book of Speculation
"Scorching... By detailing how the study of human behavior differs from understanding people, and how smart women can miss the obvious and make mistakes, Romano-Lax sheds a harsh yet deeply moving light on feminism and psychology, in theory and in practice."
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"Fascinating... Romano-Lax writes compellingly about science and the Jazz Age"
"Rayner finally has the spotlight in this compelling fictional memoir."
"Behave is a page-turning exploration of a complicated relationship, full of themes that will resonate with modern readers—the enduring debate of nature vs. nurture, as well as the eternal struggle women face to balance family life and career opportunities."
Soho Press, 2012
Set in 1938 Italy and Munich, The Detour enlarges upon themes introduced in Andromeda’s debut novel, including questions about the role of art – and the promise of love – in wartime.
Young art curator Ernst Vogler travels to Italy on what is supposed to be a brief assignment: escorting the famous Discus Thrower statue to Munich, where it has been purchased, controversially, by the German government. But from the first morning, when Vogler arrives at the museum too late to write his initial report, to a change in plans that requires transporting the ancient statue by road instead of by train, everything goes wrong. Traveling for five days across Italy, Vogler will try to fulfill his mission, confront demons in his own past, and discover – perhaps too late – lessons in friendship and passion. Set in 1938 and inspired by a historical event, the controversial sale of a real statue to Nazi Germany, one of the first steps in what became a seven-year looting campaign of the greatest art objects of Europe, The Detour is a novel about classical art and pre-World War II politics. It is also an exploration of the boundaries between loyalty and love, rigidity and spontaneity, stone and life.
Praise for The Detour
“The Detour is a gem, combining a fascinating storyline about art acquisition in Hitler’s Germany, an entrancing setting darkened by impending war, rich symbolism and engaging characters. Romano-Lax possesses a gift for narrative texture that can incorporate and seamlessly join a moving story with character growth and an insightful, tangible realism.”
David Hendricks, San Antonio Express-News
“Set against the background of impending war and Nazi reprisals, Romano-Lax’s delicately atmospheric journey of discovery is, of course, a metaphor for life, with all its unaccountable and uncontrollable diversions and demands. A gently haunting work of subtle and surprising wisdom. ”
Carol Haggas, Booklist
“Romano-Lax is singularly gifted: she creates full-fledged, engaging characters and writes compelling narrative. Some of her descriptive passages take your breath away. The author’s The Spanish Bow was a hit. This novel will make a splash, too, for the same reasons.”
David Keymer, Library Journal
“Ernst’s story is an engrossing one. It also serves as a means by which the author demonstrates the insidious role of Nazi culture in ordinary lives… A very satisfying novel.”
The Washington Independent Review of Books
“Nicely paced, brisk with dialog, and lyric at the right moment, this would be great for book clubs.”
Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
“Romano-Lax has taken a snippet from history, Hitler’s controversial pre-war acquisition of The Discus Thrower, and cast it in a classic road trip story, where the journey is more about self-discovery than maps and routes. Vogler is a beautifully layered character – misunderstood, doubting, secretive, precise – rivaled only by the colorful Digiloramo twins, who keep a thread of dark humor running throughout. Romano-Lax paints a glorious landscape of northern Italy, with sunsets and winding vineyards that pull the reader in as much as the characters. Thoroughly recommended.”
Jessica Brockmole, Historical Novels Review
“Romano-Lax creates an atmosphere of slow-building suspense, and her skill as a writer is irrefutable. Part romance and part mystery, this piece of historical fiction sheds light on an infrequently explored aspect of the Third Reich.”
Hilary Daninhirsch, Jewish Book Council
“The ethical issues of the book are thought provoking, contrasting the artistic perfection of classical sculpture with basic human values. Ultimately, the sculpture itself provides the answer. Just as the discus thrower leans to balance the weight of the outstretched arm and the heavy disc, Ernst must learn to balance his love for classical art with personal morality; to reach for love, even while acknowledging it is more than any of us deserve.”
The Spanish Bow
Andromeda’s debut novel, The Spanish Bow (Harcourt, 2007): an epic novel about the clash of artistic ideals and 20th century European politics, inspired by a love for Spain and classical music.
“I was almost born Happy.” So begins The Spanish Bow and the remarkable history of Feliu Delargo, who just misses being named “Feliz” by a misunderstanding at his birth, which he barely survives. The accidental bequest of a cello bow from his dead father sets Feliu on the course of becoming a musician, unlikely given his beginnings in a dusty village in Catalonia. When he is compelled to flee to anarchist Barcelona, his education in music, life, love, and politics begins.
The Spanish Bow is a haunting fugue of music, politics, and passion set against half a century of Spanish history, from the tail end of the nineteenth century up through the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Inspired by the life of Pablo Casals and with appearances by Pablo Picasso, Bertolt Brecht, and others who wrestled with the competing demands of art and conscience, The Spanish Bow is a deeply imagined tale of the passions that accident bestows– and the sacrifices history exacts.
Praise for Andromeda’s debut novel, The Spanish Bow
Library Journal, One of the Best Books of 2007
Booksense Pick September 2007 and Highlight of 2007
New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, September 2007
“An impressive and richly atmospheric debut.”
New York Times Book Review
“Time and setting, character and plot come together in this exceptionally appealing first novel about a master cellist and his complicated relationship with the country of his birth and the poisoned times in which he performs. Readers will be captivated by this delightful book, loosely inspired by the life of the great cellist Pablo Casals.”
Library Journal (starred review)
“Extraordinary, gripping … Encounters with actual world players, like Picasso, Adolf Hitler, Franco, Kurt Weill and others, constitute a feature of this many-favored book. Another is the author’s obvious love for Spain and its colorful cities, which are unforgettably detailed… In the end, The Spanish Bow suggests that fighting the manifest evil in the world can be even more damaging than tilting at windmills. And yet, and yet — there always remains the message and nobility of opposition in itself.”
“…for sheer scope and ambition, this is a tough debut to beat.”
“Expertly woven throughout the book are cameo appearances by Pablo Picasso, Adolf Hitler, Francisco Franco, Bertolt Brecht, and others, but it is the fictional Feliu, Justo, and Aviva who will keep you mesmerized to the last page. ”
Christian Science Monitor
“Passionate, vivid, and engrossing, The Spanish Bow is profoundly human, a poignant history full of life and color.”
Hamilton Cheifetz, concert cellist and recording artist
“This riveting historical page-turner moves inexorably toward a heartrending crescendo.”
“Andromeda Romano-Lax’s powerful first novel, The Spanish Bow, is an account of Spain during the years of 1890-1940, as experienced by a Catalan child prodigy who goes on to become court musician and then the country’s most celebrated cellist. Epic in scale it is full of richly detailed tableaux of Catalonian peasant life, bohemian Barcelona, the chaos of the Second Republic, and the rise of Francoist fascism…The Spanish Bow…excels as a portrait of a country at a painful moment in its evolution.’ ”
Times Literary Supplement (London)
“Can art save us from ourselves? In her elegant debut, Romano-Lax ponders this timeless question through the ambitious tale of Feliu Delargo, a gifted cellist born in turn-of-the-century Spain. … From the hypocrisies of the courts of Madrid to the terror of Nazi-occupied Paris, Romano-Lax weaves the upheavals of the first half of the 20th century into an elegy to the simultaneous power and impotency of art, and the contradictions of the human spirit. ”
Historical Novels Review
Searching for Steinbeck's Sea of Cortez: A Makeshift Expedition Along Baja's Desert Coast
Sasquatch Books/Renacido Press
Newly released in ebook form in 2018, Andromeda Romano-Lax's 2002 travel narrative follows in the footsteps of John Steinbeck's formative expedition into Mexico's Sea of Cortez. Equal parts shoestring family misadventure and unconventional biography, this double portrait reflects the tidepools and south-of-the-border culture that influenced one of our best-known American authors while detailing modern environmental issues along today's Baja coast.
Praise for Searching for Steinbeck's Sea of Cortez
"An appealing shoestring odyssey chronicled with engaging, ever-ready curiosity."
"Readers will find this a captivating guide to an extraordinary place."
"Romano-Lax takes us on a multifaceted journey, from scientific exploration to a Zen-like delight in being in the world. I loved every step, stop, sail, and snorkel of the way." Nancy Lord, author of pH and Fishcamp
"Imagine hitchhiking in Baja's wilderness with a pair of toddlers in tow, then packing them into a sea kayak on the Sea of Cortez. Clearly, Romano-Lax, the author of several guidebooks to Alaska, where she resides, has a nonchalant and intrepid attitude toward travel. There's sufficient information here for any naturalist, environmentalist, or trekker considering a similar journey to explore this little-known part of North America." Library Journal