Bonnie Rough expertly straddles the fine line of too much information in her new book Carrier, Untangling the Danger in my DNA. Reality and memoir fill in the pieces to Rough's past as she writes about her genetic abnormality ? an inherited DNA trait ? that she could likely pass on to future children.
“In the summer of 2004, before my first genetics appointment, and before asking my brother for his blood sample, I had been wondering if life could get any better.
It might have been enough, but like my mother, I couldn't imagine a childless life. I had just made a doctor's appointment for a month later, in August. I would meet with a genetic counselor and a physician, describe my family pedigree, discuss the disorder, and eventually submit to blood tests in order to learn my status. If the news returned that I carried HED, Dan and I would have a battery of decisions before us.”
Dense with contemplation, Carrier records Rough’s tough decision of whether or not to have a baby. Genetic testing makes it possible to select the 'right egg' and abort eggs that carry the disease. What makes this even harder is the fact that HED is not life-threatening; it just dramatically alters the way a person has to live. This very personal and political decision brings Rough searching for clues from her past and unraveling her grandfather's condition along with the subsequent addictions that destroyed his creative brilliance.
Aunt Sadie, the only one of my grandfather's seven siblings still living, answered the door in Pine Bluffs with soft hellos.
I hadn't explained the motive for my visit, so Sadie became quieter and quieter as I probed about her little brother Earl. Did she remember him suffering as a child? People saw him as weak, helpless ? did she think this caused him to take on too much later in life, going way over his head in pipe dreams and debts and addictions?”
This book is scientific and methodic, but also envelopes the reader in storytelling. Alternating between past, present, and possible future storylines allows the reader to take a deep breath and builds up the intensity of the story. While the many characters travel around the West and Mid-West United States, Rough's story grounds us in Minneapolis. Leaving us envious of all the walks she enjoys around Lake Harriet with ample wildlife and nearby rose gardens. It's a pleasure to walk around any of the city's lakes, but perhaps it's the soothing quality of Lake Harriet that helps Rough sort everything out.
This book has a rare unflinching honesty. Rough seems to have come to peace with herself and her decisions and willing to take whatever backlash may come. It is a quality to be admired, and if the writing is a bit overly-contemplative at points, it is only because of the weight of her choices. Whatever your stance on abortion or addiction, Carrier is a mesmerizing self-study of the human emotions behind all of our decisions.