Soul by Tobsha Learner

Rating: 8 out of 10
Summary: In nineteenth-century Britain, young Lavinia Huntington’s older husband appreciates her lively intellect and seems eager to extend his wife’s education from his study to their bedroom. Lavinia absorbs all he has to teach and glories in the birth of their son.

In twenty-first-century Los Angeles, Julia Huntington studies the human genome, seeking the origins of human emotion. As passionate about her marriage to her beloved Klaus as she is about her life’s work, Julia is delighted to discover that she is pregnant.

Separated by nearly 150 years, Lavinia and Julia suffer the same shock when their men abandon them. Their powerful love becomes painful hate; their intense passion transforms into icy logic. The genes of the Huntington women have formed their emotions–now their life experiences drive them to make decisions that they, and those they love, may long regret.

Commentary: I started reading another of Learner’s novels quite awhile ago, The Witch of Cologne, but I never finished it. However, I really enjoyed Soul–finished it in a day. Learner did a great job of interweaving two stories and two conflicts, transitioning well between one narrative and the next.

I think the best part about this book was the emotion and intensity involved–Learner takes the reader through a whole rollercoaster of ups and downs, and you can feel every single thing that happens to both Lavinia and Julia. I don’t want to reveal too much, but I’m not sure I would have been as strong as Julia, strong enough to hold back from dealing revenge at such a horrible betrayal.

Usually a novel with two narratives can become unbalanced–I’ve read books before where I become far more interested in one story than the other. But Learner did a good job of paralleling Julia’s and Lavinia’s stories.

The one thing I can really pick on is Learner’s central, scientific idea that supposedly tied the two stories together–the question of nature vs. nurture, of whether or not our DNA and basic genetic makeup can determine our behavior. It may be because I am personally so biased (I favor nurture over nature) but I felt that the scientific arguments and evidence presented in Soul were weak and not particularly engaging. The science and genetics weren’t what linked these two related women–their situations and decisions did.

Maybe in the end, especially considering the climax, that is what Learner intended to prove.

Great read, fast-paced and very, very interesting.

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