Usually I prefer a heaping helping of escapism in my media (as Murderbot would say), but this Bloggess-recommended book was CHEWY, and I think I will be pondering it for quite some time.
I’m not sure how far to go into the synopsis, because it’s going to get spoilery real fast, but here goes: Evelyn is a brilliant scientist who specializes in clones, mapping the brain to make a clone more or less like their progenitor. Her husband is a less-brilliant scientist, jealous of the time she spends in her lab and angry that she doesn’t want to put her work on hold to have a child. (He calls her a hornet – full of venom.) Evelyn finds out he’s cheating on her, and then the betrayal gets worse. He’s stolen her work and her DNA, and is cheating on her with HERSELF. He cloned her, but made her softer, more pliable, less prickly, and totally on board with the idea of having a baby. Something terrible happens, and Evelyn and her clone have to work together to keep themselves safe.
That’s SUPER vague, but watching the story unfold is so rewarding, I don’t want to get too far into it. Evelyn is such a fascinating character. Usually the ‘brilliant asshole’ trope is reserved for male characters (Dr. House, the Cumberbatch Sherlock, etc.), but Evelyn is pretty damn unlikeable at times. But she’s so self-aware, and so careful with herself, and so correct in her prickliness so much of the time, that you can’t help but see where she’s coming from. She doesn’t have the patience for other people’s bullshit, but really, why should she have to? As you find out more about the forces that shaped her, you understand more and more why she reacts to things the way she does.
But what about Martine, the clone? She didn’t have those same forces shaping her, so where does that leave her? At the mercy of Nathan, the scheming, cheating husband? At the whim of Evelyn, who wants to study which parts of the programming worked and which didn’t? The two women would be well-justified in hating each other, and I think a lesser author would have chosen that as the easy way out. Gailey, though, faces the tough ‘what if’ questions head on, and takes the answers to some surprising places.
To call it a nature vs. nurture story is too minimizing, I think, but I do like the spotlight this book shines on the fact that our personalities are shaped by everything, good and bad. Choosing how to use all that history can make us stronger, but it isn’t always an easy journey.