The Scientists: A Family Romance, by Marco Roth is an unusual memoir, and one, in my opinion that is written more to find psychological and familial truth through the act of writing, than to portray one’s life.
During the 1980s through 1990s fear of AIDS was rampant throughout the country. This fear and is the foundation upon which his teenage years was built. Roth learns at the age of fourteen that his father, Eugene, has AIDS, and is told he acquired it from a needle that slipped out of a patient’s arm. Roth was told never to tell anyone of his father’s condition. Secrecy was the basics of his upbringing. He carried that burden for years to come.
The Scientists is a metaphor for the life of denial that Roth’s parents lived, harboring the secrets that caused Eugene’s (his father’s) AIDS, and eventual death, and harboring other secrets. This superficial exterior was fostered even after the death of Roth’s father.
Roth began to question the stories he had heard over the years, and when his aunt, Anne Rolphe’s memoir was published, he began a journey of searching for answers. His search took him through memory’s closets, and through moments too painful for his parents to acknowledge or want to remember. The time period cast a deep stain on AIDS, which caused the individuals concerned to be frowned upon. They often became societal outcasts, even within their own family members.
That, in itself, is a sad state of affairs on the human condition, and on humanity’s lack of understanding, over AIDS, homosexuality and the discrimination that lies behind ignorance and the lack of acceptance of others.
Roth’s parents were affluent, and believed that education was the answer to the future. This played heavily in his life, as he became a precocious child, playing the violin, reading Shakespeare, etc. These educational and cultural efforts were part and parcel of the Roth lifestyle.
Through his memoir he was able to move forward, and come to terms with the secrets and familial dynamics that encompassed his life. He was able to understand the social stigmas forced on those who had AIDS, the discrimination spewed out to homosexuals, and the entire spectrum surrounding those issues that led to generations of secrets. What he was not totally able to come to terms with was the total effect of how he was affected by his father’s insistence, and how the ghost of his father still lingers.
Emotions range the gamut within the pages, with Roth often wandering in limbo, trying to find the answers, answers of identity and truth. He questions himself, who he is, and whether he carries the genes of his father’s philandering.
I can not say that I enjoyed reading The Scientists: A Family Romance, it isn’t that type of memoir. I feel that the word “romance” in the title was the author’s use of the word for the love of the father/son relationship, the love of researching, learning, writing and setting the familial record straight. The book became a passion for Roth, and he carried his notes and drafts wherever he lived.
For me, it isn’t a book of inspiration in a spiritual sense, but a book that might inspire others to search for familial truths. But, I will say that the writing is definitely illuminated with vivid imagery and emotional content. Marco Roth writes with honesty and conciseness in exhibiting his emotions and thoughts, his search for truth and identity. He does not hide what was unspoken, or carry the secrets forward. That is the strength the reader finds within the pages of The Scientists: A Family Romance.