“Rachel in Love” by Pat Murphy

In addition to reading new, I’m rereading some old favorites to see if they line up with what I want to do with the anthology. 

I read Pat Murphy’s “Rachel in Love” when it first appeared in Asimov’s in 1987. When I was editing for Pulphouse, I bought the story as a reprint in our Short Story Paperbacks line. Until tonight, I hadn’t read the story for over 20 years. I remember its heartbreak and its power. I also remember that Pat played fair with Rachel.

And she did. I reread the story tonight about the chimp who was also a real girl, and felt so much tension that I could hardly stand the suspense. I thought maybe I had misremembered the ending. (I do that; sometimes I mentally rewrite sad endings and make them happy in my memory.) 

I hadn’t misremembered any of this. If anything, I had forgotten just how powerful and suspenseful the story is.

The story begins as Rachel’s father, Dr. Aaron Jacobs, dies in his sleep. His daughter Rachel and his wife were killed in a car accident and Dr. Jacobs took the impression he had made of his daughter’s brain (memories and all) and placed it in the brain of a young chimpanzee. The young chimp becomes his daughter, and he protects her, until he can’t any longer.

The circumstances thrust Rachel into a harsh world, and give us a marvelous coming-of-age story. 

The story won the Nebula in 1987. It’s been reprinted several times or you can get it in an ebook edition.

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