A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Monday, April 1, 2019

The DNA of You and Me by Andrea Rothman- Feature and Review



A smart debut novel—a wonderfully engaging infusion of Lab Girl, The Assistants, and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine—that pits the ambition of scientific discovery against the siren call of love.

How does smell work? Specifically, how do olfactory sensory neurons project to their targets in the olfactory bulb, where smell is processed? Justin McKinnon has hired fresh-faced graduate student Emily to study that question. What Justin hasn’t told Emily is that two other scientists in the lab, Aeden and Allegra, are working on a very similar topic, and their findings may compete with her research.

Emily was born focused and driven. She’s always been more comfortable staring down the barrel of a microscope than making small talk with strangers. Competition doesn’t scare her. Her special place is the lab, where she analyzes DNA sequences, looking for new genes that might be involved in guiding olfactory neurons to their targets.

To Emily’s great surprise, her rational mind is unsettled by Aeden. As they shift from competitors to colleagues, and then to something more, Emily allows herself to see a future in which she doesn’t end up alone. But when Aeden decides to leave the lab, it becomes clear to Emily that she must make a choice: follow her research or follow her heart.

A sharp, relevant novel that speaks to the ambitions and desires of modern women, The DNA of You and Me explores the evergreen question of career versus family, the irrational sensibility of love, and whether one can be a loner without a diagnostic label.



The DNA of You and MeThe DNA of You and Me by Andrea Rothman

The DNA of You and Me by Andrea Rothman is a 2019 William Morrow publication.

The setup here is interesting and original-

Emily was raised by her father, a man much like herself, who was very single minded. However, he often encouraged her to get out and make friends and be more sociable. However, an allergy related to the smell of cut grass, kept her indoors during the summer months, putting a damper on her ability to hang out with other people. Still, Emily preferred to keep to herself, and her few attempts to fit in with her peers, were an epic fail.

Yet, it was her own personal experience that encouraged her drive to study olfactory receptors located in the nasal cavity- otherwise known as the sense of smell. Her research, she hopes, will lead to treatment for, or a cure for Anosmia.

Fresh out of school, Justin, the lab manager, gives Emily the opportunity to work in his lab. However, he fails to mention that the lab already has two scientists working on a project very similar to Emily’s. One of those academics, is Aeden, a man who does not mince words. He immediately informs Emily she will have to find another project. Emily refuses, of course, so- Game on! Let the competition begin!

Eventually, Aeden and Emily wind up working in tandem, which takes their relationship to another level. From here, life gets a little messy for the socially awkward Emily, who, much to her surprise, faces a common conundrum when she falls hard for Aeden. Which of her great passions will dominate her life? Her career or a life with Aeden?

Can someone as driven as Emily, fully commit herself to marriage and children? Could she balance that life with her demanding and single- minded devotion to her career? Are some people better off alone, or should love take precedence over success?

The one thing I worried about before starting this book, the heavy use of scientific jargon, turned out to be the very least of my concerns. While I didn’t fully understand all of it, I was able to grasp the general idea and it never once took me out of the story. In fact, the book is an easy read, so easy, in fact, I knew read it in one sitting.

However, there are two issues weighing on me.

While love is the emotion this novel is centered around, this is not a romance novel, nor is it a love story, per se, (unless you are including warped ones, like Wuthering Heights), although it has been categorized as such. I would advise against approaching this novel in such a way, to be honest. Perhaps, contemporary fiction would be the most appropriate category, with the possibility of adding ‘women’s fiction’ as a runner up.

The second thing I feel compelled to mention is a disturbing scene, in which Emily and Aeden steal away for a sexual rendezvous, only Aeden wants to do something Emily is uncomfortable with. He’s not tender, he’s rough. She says, ‘No’, he doesn’t stop. She zones out during the encounter in order to cope, then feels humiliated, and hurt, avoiding Aeden, until he eventually apologizes. Then suddenly all is forgiven.

I am very uncomfortable with that passage. It is not the type of sexual activity they are engaging in that bothers me. They are two adults after all. However, the question is, are they two CONSENTING adults. There was a question mark there in my opinion, and I still feel weird about it.

As for my opinion of the story, as a whole, in my humble opinion, this story is a character study, an examination of what happens to our normal, rational, clear- headed thinking process when we fall in love. The complicated and cutthroat world of academia, where ambition and competition rule the day, makes these changes even more striking, and for Emily, they are confusing. Women are often the ones, more than men, who must make the tough decisions about their career when marriage and children present themselves. Men it seems, seldom feel pressured in this same way.

Yet, for Emily, the problem is even more compounded by her social awkwardness, and the hint that she presents on the autism spectrum. She questions if she is better suited to living alone, could she make her partner happy, could she do or be what is expected or required of her from an intimate long-term relationship?

Aeden, a character for whom I could not summon up one ounce of compassion, appears to have his priorities in order, as far as that goes. He, unlike Emily, dislikes the lab, and Justin, and is fine with leaving to pursue other things.

He wants Emily to choose love over success. However, his methods are manipulative, immature, and not something one does, if they really love someone. One could argue, he made choices he thought were in Emily’s best interest, but I’m afraid I disagree. You can’t force someone to be something they aren’t, or you will both wind up being miserable.

Ultimately, I found the story to be interesting, fascinating, and utterly absorbing. It gave me a lot of food for thought. Even though I am a hard-wired romantic, I was proud of Emily in the end. She did the right thing, even in her eventual forgiveness, which gives her permission to finally move ahead, emotionally. And because of my die hard romanticism, I’m convinced that lightning will strike twice for our Emily, and that maybe she is not destined to be alone, after all.





Andrea Rothman is a fiction writer and former research scientist. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. She is passionate about books, people, and recycling, and enjoys writing fiction about science and the future. She lives in Long Island with her husband and two children. Follow her on Instagram: @andrearothmanauthor

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