If you’re tired of legal thrillers written by lawyers, read this amazing medical thriller written by Dr. Avner Hershlag who not only knows his stuff, but also knows how to write. Combining a little science fiction with a lot of science fact, Hershlag takes us on a scary journey through the fields of genetics and into the near future. Misconception delves deeply into a subject no less important than the mystery of life itself.
Nelson DeMille, author of The Gold Coast
When Dr. Anya Krim, the First Lady’s fertility specialist, delivers a grossly deformed baby of undetermined sex, she tries to figure out how the child was conceived. But, before she is able to determine the baby’s origin, she diagnoses a pregnancy in Megan, a Senator’s daughter, who has been in a coma for two years. The question of who has impregnated Megan leads to a shocking suspicion based upon the FBI’s DNA fingerprinting results.
At the same time, the First Lady’s last-ditch attempt to have a child runs amok when the safety of her embryos is threatened. Anya not only has to secure the embryos she created. She must now prove that no one has altered them genetically.
Anya, herself, is desperate to have a child of her own, but her fears of having sex threaten to leave her childless. How far will she go to have a child? Unforeseen complications threaten her reputation, her career, and ultimately, her life.
Misconception takes the reader on a heart pounding and mysterious, yet intriguing journey, examining new reproductive and genetic technologies through Anya’s eyes. Along the way, she must grapple with issues of passion and hate, conservative and liberal politics, morality and medicine and ultimately life and death.
This time I won’t let the doctor pull down my underwear. No way will this man feel my balls again and measure my penis with a yardstick. I hate him. I hate the clinic. For six months Mom’s been dragging me every week to this nightmare of a place, to see the awful doctor. The freezing stethoscope and his cold hands give me the creeps. Why would the bastard think his white coat gives him the right to embarrass me in front of the nurse, telling her with his smart-ass attitude to look at my private parts, pulling my elastic without permission? I look awful in the mirror, with just my boxers on. Like Mom always says – I’m all skin and bones. And my arms are so skinny and long – down to my knees, like a monkey. If they have kids strip here, in the middle of winter, can’t the government pay for a little heat? Whatever. I think the President’s keeping all the money to himself. Yessss. The blonde nurse is back. Her hands are warm. Sure. Take my blood pressure. You want the other arm too? She smells good. I wish she’d keep leaning over like that. Haven’t seen a better pair of legs– not ever. I wish this part of the visit would last forever. “So let’s see how much progress we’ve made,” the doctor says. Short and ugly in his white coat, the sleeves stained with some brown stuff, he stands there like a rock star waiting for applause. He makes me spread my arms apart. He takes the stupid magnifying glass out of his dirty coat and goes searching for gold in my armpit. Hope he chokes from the stink. “No hair follicles” the doctor dictates to the nurse with not a touch of emotion, like a mechanic checking under the hood. Duh. I could’ve told him that without the magnifying glass. Now comes the part I really hate. “Could you please pull down your underpants for me, young man?” I wish the animal wouldn’t see me like this, drenched in sweat. He makes me feel like a lab rat. I can still hear them laugh. Boys and girls. I imagine that jerk standing in front of the entire class, giving an anatomy lesson on my private parts as I walk in late one day. They all stop cold, short of some giggles in the back, but I still catch a glimpse of the “model” of my privates that he had made from two olives and a toothpick. That’s how Mom finds out I’m different than the other boys in class, when I start coming home on lunch-break to use the john. Next thing she does she drags me here. Every Wednesday afternoon I have to visit the NIH clinic for odd-looking kids. “Young man, we don’t have all day.” The little toad is scolding me now. Doctors have no feelings. To him I’m one more experiment. Nothing else. Now he comes closer and tries to pull down on my elastic. “No!” I push the doctor. Takes him by complete surprise. His face’s bright red from his puffy cheeks through his wide forehead to what’s left of his hairline. An overripe tomato. “Mom, could you come in for a moment?” He calls my mother, “Mom.” Creep. Mom steps in. The small room feels crowded. “Honey, let them finish the exam. We have reservations at O’Donnell’s for lunch.” Big fuckin’ deal. Mom is sweet. But it’s this grown-up thing again. Bribe your kid and make him do something he really hates doing. Besides, the only thing I really like at O’Donnell’s is sneaking into the kitchen, watching them take one of the live crabs out of the tank and dump it in the boiling water. The doctor comes near me. No. Not again, Mister. This time I push him so hard the scumbag has zero chance of touching my underpants again. The doctor takes a step back and hits the wall behind him. He’s shaking with anger. Great. Mom says, “Let me talk to him alone.” The doctor and the nurse leave. “Honey--” “I know, Mom. It’s for my sake. You’ve told me a million times this Doctor was going to help. But he’s done zilch. I’m just good for some f--” I swallow the rest of it. My way of avoiding soap in my mouth tonight. “This doctor doesn’t give two hoots about me. The other day I heard him tell his nurse that I’m part of a study he has to do for the NIH. He’s like that Dr. Mengele we learnt about in sch--” “Shush. Don’t you ever mention that Nazi again. What a horrible thing to say. Now – you’ve got to let him finish this--” “Tell you what,” I decide to compromise. “I’ll let him do it if he doesn’t call the nurse in.” Mom promises the doctor I’ll behave. I love it. The ugly duckling is scared shitless of a twelve year old. Round three. The little doc and me. Alone. The nurse behind the screen, Mom outside the door. This could be the knockout. Maybe I could bite his ear...I smile. No more taking advantage of a little boy. I’m in charge now. “I’ll do it myself,” I say. I pull my Calvins down. It’s still embarrassing, but I feel better. The doctor approaches me. Still a bit shaky. Again the stupid magnifying glass. “No pubic hair” he dictates to the nurse behind the curtain. Now he takes his “oddballs” - this ridiculous-looking string of different-size plastic balls. He measures them against my balls. “Size one.” Guess it didn’t get much lower than that. Thank God he isn’t asking the nurse if they grew from last time. His cold hands mash my balls. Gross. “Soft,” he adds. Now for the yardstick. “Penis one and a half inches. Any change?” Asshole. “No, doctor,” says the nurse. I guess from her tone she also hates his guts. Mom and I walk into his office to hear the verdict. The little judge sits there behind his desk, indifferent, avoiding eye contact, pretending he’s too busy going through at my chart. “I’m afraid we haven’t made much progress, Mom.” Mom asks, “Have you found out what’s wrong with my boy?” She squeezes my hand. Mom is the only person in the whole world who cares about me. Even Dad totally freaked out on our first visit. Couldn’t deal. “The boy has Fragile Y Syndrome” the doctor leans back in his chair. For the first time his lips thin out, attempting a smile. “What exactly is Frail Y--?” “Fragile Y,” Frankenstein corrects my Mom. “It’s a genetic problem he was born with. And nothing can be done to change it. His Y chromosome is weak. You know. The X – the kind that girls have, is OK.” Mom tightens her grip on my hand. She feels me making a fist. Ready when you are Mister I-don’t-give-a-damn-how-my-patient-feels. Maybe this time I’ll bite your ear off. Then you’d really see chromosomes. Fuckin’ jerk. Winner of the gold medal for zero compassion. He tells me I have some horrible disease – and all of a sudden he’s all smiles. My misery makes him happy! Mom feels me getting ready to jump to my feet and beat the hell out of the shmuck. She pulls me back. “He is a boy, right?” “Of course.” He tries to please her. Maybe he’s sensing danger. Then he strikes again. “He’s a little boy with a weak Y chromosome. His penis and testicles will always be small.” Thanks for making me feel so good. So special. I wish I’d never met you. “What will he be like as an adult?” Mom’s voice sounds shaky. “Tall and skinny. With a micropenis and two microtesticles.” Why don’t you rub it in, Mister? I think you should show me yours. “He’ll most probably have no sperm. So he’ll most probably be, hmmm. Sterile.” You think I didn’t get it, right? You just told my mother I’ll never be able to have children. “Oh, and one more thing. These kids are frequently low achievers in school. They sometimes have to attend special classes. Usually they don’t make it to college. But they can do menial work. Society has been pretty good ---” “Bastard!” Yeah, Mom. Give it to him. Give it to him good. Mom stands up now, tall and angry, leaning over the desk, looking down at the ugly dwarf. He raises his hands like as if she’s pulling a gun on him. “Sorry, but noth ---” “—nothing can be done to change it. I heard you the first time. Now you listen to me. Listen to me good. You may be a big fucking professor at the NIH but I’ve got news for you.
Based on his expertise in this rapidly evolving, morally precarious field of reproductive treatments, this novel was written by Dr. Avner Hershlag, a Yale-educated fertility specialist at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Long Island, NY and an Associate Professor at New York and Hofstra Universities. Dr. Hershlag lives with his wife in Long Island, New York.