Published by
Soho Press (2016-02-23)
Current material
1st Pass Pages
Original language
Fiction & Related items


by Romano-Lax, Andromeda

A novel of passion and ambition based on the life of one of the most controversial scientists—and mothers—of the 20th century. Motherhood and psychology collide in this 1950s historical fiction based on the lives of behaviorist founder John B. Watson and his wife Rosalie Rayner.

In 1920, when she graduated from Vassar College with her degree in psychology, Rosalie Rayner took a coveted position at the Johns Hopkins research lab to assist the charismatic John B. Watson, the man who pioneered behaviorist psychology. Together, John Watson and Rosalie Rayner conducted experiments on hundreds of babies to prove behaviorist principles of nurture over nature. They also embarked on a scandalous affair that cost them both their jobs.

The Watsons’ parenting book, PSYCHOLOGICAL CARE OF INFANT AND CHILD, which emphasized emotional detachment, sold millions of copies and affected the upbringings of generations of American children—but Rosalie, now a mother herself, had to confront its tenets personally.

With BEHAVE, Andromeda Romano-Lax offers a fictional biography of Rosalie Rayner Watson, a woman whose lab work is now widely repudiated but who in her time was at the cutting edge of parenting psychology.

This novel is in turns moving and horrifying, a thought-provoking and page-turning read about the meaning of motherhood. By the author of THE SPANISH BOW and THE DETOUR.

Andromeda Romano-Lax is the author of the acclaimed historical novel THE SPANISH BOW, named one of the Best Books of 2007 by Library Journal and and Editor’s Choice Pick and a Booksense Pick.

Available rights (1)

Language Territory Type Vendor Status
German World All

Sebastian Ritscher

Available View on Rightsdesk


a fascinating portrait of cold psychological breakthroughs made by scientists more human than they’d care to admit, even to themselves. Like Stoner, it is a beau- tiful tale of quietly violent emotions straining against tem- pered times.

Quote: Brookline Booksmith, Brookline

BEHAVE has gut-wrenching resonance, perhaps especially for parents. The questions the novel raises about who really knows what’s best for our children are so important, so uncomfortable, and so viscerally rendered here (through the lens of ‘science’) that I found my own point of view emphatically changed.

Quote: Juliet Grames, associate publisher, Soho Press

By detailing how the study of human behavior differs from understanding people, and how smart women can miss the obvious and make mistakes, Romano-Lax sheds a harsh yet deeply moving light on feminism and psychology, in theory and in practice.

Review: Publishers Weekly, starred review

When reading a compelling book, sometimes I race through it, but take my word for it: Behave is one to SAVOR. If you are a careful and inquisitive reader, take your time. You will learn a great deal about the behaviorist psycholo- gy movement during the 1920s. While reading about some rather bizarre practices on babies and children, you will enter the sexually volatile relationship between the hus- band and wife who pioneered this unusual theory, Dr. John Watson and Rosalie Rayner who becomes his wife shortly after graduating from Vassar. I am crazy for historical real- ism, and my spirits soared while reading it. Andromeda Ro- mano-Lax has done a masterful job of creating a most pro- vocative read. When a man marries his mistress, he creates a job opportunity . . .

Quote: Books and Books, Coral Gables

the story was fascinating and well-paced; the writing was incredible. The urgency at the intersection between desire and guilt; the struggle between the demands of mother- hood and the lure of scholarship; the compulsion to follow societal (and behaviorist) demands warring with the truer instincts of motherhood, all beautifully rendered. Reading this book was like walking in a haze. It is like a combination between Mad Men and The Blind Assassin.

Quote: Readers' Books, Sonoma

Like STONER, it is a beautiful tale of quietly violent emotions straining against tempered times.

Quote: Brookline Booksmith

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