Carrie Klein
March 07, 2008 AT 05:00 AM EST

Philosopher Mason Ambrose goes to a remote island to teach ethics to a girl who lacks a conscience. Edwina Sabacthani claims her daughter, Londa, lost her ”moral center” after a head injury, but Mason discovers the truth: Edwina’s island is a laboratory, and Londa is one of her creations. The girl learns right from wrong, but once off the island, her morality falters. Londa’s intentions (curing cancer, fighting fascism) are honorable, but not her means (cloning, hijacking). Novelist James Morrow addresses controversial topics in The Philosopher’s Apprentice without being heavy-handed, and infuses the narrative with a wit that pragmatists and idealists alike will appreciate. A-

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