A few words on how the idea of DAMAGED PEOPLE came to me in the first place….
I’ve always been fascinated with science and usually wind my plots around it. Whatever it may be – quantum physics, time travel or consciousness–such mysteries allow me to explore the big questions. Nature vs. nurture has always been one of those mysteries that beckoned to me.
Some years back I heard about a study of a tiny 19th century town in Sweden. Overkalix was so isolated that if the harvest was bad, everybody starved. If it was good, they stuffed themselves for months. Analyzing the town’s meticulous agricultural records to determine which years were feast and which were famine, scientists researched the long-term effects on generations of children growing up in there. What they discovered was surprising, to say the least.
For one thing, they found that when pregnant women had little to eat, their children were much more likely to have cardiovascular disease as adults.That was surprising. But even more so was the fact that boys who enjoyed abundant harvests produced sons and GRANDSONS who lived shorter lives–up to decades shorter! Overall, the results showed that a single winter of overeating as a youngster could set off a cascade of events that would lead one’s progeny to die decades earlier than their peers. Unbelievable, I thought. How could this be?
The answer, I learned, lay in the new science of epigenetics. Epigenetics, which means “over genetics,” explains how the environment leaves chemical marks or tags on the genes, activating them or shutting them down. These tags can alter function or behavior and even cause disease, all without ever changing the DNA itself. Amazingly, science has even found that epigenetic marks may be inherited along with the genes, short-circuiting evolution and passing along new traits in a single generation.
I was blown away. Everyone knew that Lamarck was wrong. The 18th century naturalist’s theory of acquired characteristics–that giraffes got their long necks because their ancestors had stretched theirs to reach the leaves on the top of trees – had long since been debunked. Changes in the genetic slate were always wiped clean from one generation to the next….
There was definitely a book in all this, though who and what and how, I didn’t know yet. Eventually, it all came together in a New York family wounded by a single tragedy that propagates itself from person to person and generation to generation: DAMAGED PEOPLE.
Damaged People will be released on June 28th. Reserve your copy now:
Damaged People by Bonnie Rozanski
Damaged People is literary, edgy and character-based.
Damaged People is not your mother’s family saga.
Like The Corrections, it is literary, edgy and character-based. Like We Are Not Ourselves, it is a moving multi-generational novel. Unlike them, however, Damaged People has a premise founded in cutting-edge science: that powerful environmental conditions routinely leave imprints in our genetic material, short-circuiting evolution and passing along new traits in a single generation.
Damaged People tells of three generations of a New York City family wounded by a single tragedy that ricochets from person to person:
The young father, Joe, who, out of his mind with grief when his wife dies unexpectedly from a blood clot after giving birth, cannot bear to touch his newborn son.
The young boy himself, who grows into a titan of finance, wildly successful in business but ruthless and paranoid with people.
Then there’s Russ’ only son, Jack, who is overcome with an anxiety he cannot understand or resolve, but one that seems only to have been passed on from his father’s early experience.