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Comments for Pharmakon
The cover of an epic often depicts the founding member of the new dynasty. Pharmakon by Dirk Wittenborn isn't an epic but it draws on some of the conventions. With that in mind, the cover shows Gray, an African Gray parrot whose unexpected appearance in the mulberry tree at the Friedrich household sets in motion a number of events that will forever change the family.
Of course the parrot isn't the family patriarch. That honor falls to William Friedrich, a psychologist who for personal reasons works in pharmaceuticals, first in R & D at Yale and later as a consultant. William's detachment from everything makes him a rather dry lead. He reminds me a bit of the doctor from The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards.
The novel is written in a disjointed fashion from the perspective of the youngest child, Zach Friedrich. The circumstances of his birth are as unusual as Gray's appearance. He seems like an odd choice for narrator but there's a clue perhaps in the dedication: "In Memory of J. R. Wittenborn, PhD." A quick internet search will bring up enough similarities between the real and fictional for the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place.
So like "The Sleepless Years" by Steven Utley, I will give Pharmakon the benefit of the doubt. I will close by saying the writing struck me as uneven and prone to melodrama. The book had its moments, especially the connection between Jack and Zach, tragic though it is.