"The Laws of Gravity" By Liz Rosenberg


Liz Rosenberg‘s literary career has led her through many genres and settled her works onto many bookshelves.  She has a fine reputation as a poet, is noted as the author of more than 20 books for children including “Adelaide and the Night Train”. Her 2011 picture book,“Tyrannosauris Dad” was selected as a Children’s Book of the Month Club bestseller, Her literary presence grew up with her readership with books for young adults, notably “17: A Novel in Prose Poems”.  She has written about women and Judaism in collaboration with Rivka Slonim, in “Total Immersion: A Mikvah Anthology”.  For more than 15 years she has been a book reviewer for the Boston Globe.  And all this time Professor Rosenberg has been teaching creative writing at Binghamton University.  She made a well-received move into adult fiction in 2009 with her novel “Home Repairs”, which is set in the Binghamton region where she has lived for many years.

Her second novel, “The Laws of Gravity” contuinues to show her concern for and understanding of family dynamics.  In this case, it is a prosperous Jewish family on Long Island’s fashionable North Shore, where Liz was born and raised.  Their happiness is fractured when Nicole Greene is diagnosed with leukemia and lymphoma and Nicole must turn to her cousin Ari, with whom she has had a special bond since childhood, to beg him to release umbilical cord blood that was taken after his wife had a child.  But Ari feels that the blood was banked should it be needed by his own children (or, one can easily imagine, Ari himself).  His reluctance isolates him within the family.  His mother, Nicole’s Aunt Patti, a professional actress and the family matriarch, tells her, “The purpose of family is to preserve life…We treat family members the way we’re suposed to treat everyone else on the planet.  Listen, Nikki — if you died Ari would never forgive himself.”  But despite their closeness and the closeness of Ari’s son Julian and Nicole’s daughter Daisy, whose warm relationship replicates that of Nicole and Ari when they were young, Ari demurs.

Nicole came down with bronchitis on the autumn day [she and Ari] were to have met.  A freak snowstorm, a letter that gets stuck in a grate, a case of food poisoning, a cough, and history begins marching off in a different direction.

The chemotherapy had made Nicole more vulnerable to every bug, and whenever she got sick, the sickness seemed to hold on a lttle longer, a little tighter, like a burr.  She called to reschedule the meeting with Ari, but when her cousin heard Nicole’s scratchy voice on the phone it was with a kind of deep-down relief that he seized the opportunity to refuse.  She didn’t sound like herself, but like a stranger.  You could say no to a stranger.    –from “The Laws of Gravity”

So, with support from her husband as well as Ari’s wife Mimi, Nicole sues to obtain the cord blood.  The case is assigned to the court of New York Supreme Court Justice Solomon Richter, who will hear it as his last case before retirement, literally a Solomonic decision. “The Laws of Gravity” is well-researched and accurate in both medical and legal detail.  It is also realistic in its human detail, in the contrasting roles of women and men, the lives of children, the play of religion and spirituality.

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