Andrew Solomon is a Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University Medical Center and the President of the PEN American Center. His books include Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity and The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. (November 2017)

IN THE REVIEW

Fatal Genes

Vicki Reed: The Nest, 2015; from ‘What We Leave Behind,’ a series of lifesize cyanotype portraits on fabric that Reed made of her parents, in their late eighties and suffering from memory loss and dementia, before their move to a nursing home

Mercies in Disguise: A Story of Hope, a Family’s Genetic Destiny, and the Science That Rescued Them

by Gina Kolata
Diagnosis of a disease before the onset of symptoms can benefit patients in many ways. It can circumvent an exhausting investigative odyssey; it can inform reproductive decisions; it can help a patient to plan; it can allow him or her to connect with others with the same condition, which is not only reassuring for the patient but also helpful to research scientists. But it can also cause despair. To what extent is information about an unpreventable genetic disease that has not yet caused any symptoms a gift and to what extent is it a burden?