Pharmakon, or the Story of a Happy Family

Pharmakon, or the Story of a Happy Family

A Novel

  • Ebook
  • ISBN 9781101081952
  • 416 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • 18 and up


An honest, insightful , and ruefully funny look at the fate of one American family vis-à-vis the rise of modern psychopharmacology, Pharmakon, or The Story of a Happy Family is nothing less than a contemporary epic. The novel follows William Friedrich, an ambitious professor of psychology at Yale in the early 1950s, who has stumbled upon a drug that promises happiness to those who ingest it and fame and fortune to the man who can synthesize it. But when a brilliant and troubled research subject commits murder, the consequences will haunt Friedrich and his family for years to come.


“A smart, eccentric coming-of-age story about an entire culture’s maturation process.”
-Janet Maslin, The New York Times

” A rattling good tale . . . Wittenborn describes the mind of a cracked genius with great gusto and inventiveness . . . [Pharmakon‘s] pleasures are many.”
-The New York Times Book Review

“Epically entertaining.”

” John Irving is a benevolent influence on Wittenborn’s work.”
-The Times Literary Supplement

“No one who has ever been part of a family can fail to feel pangs of recognition.”
-Jay McInerney

“A fascinating portrait of a family living on the edge.”
-Richard Price