Tuesday, September 21

Tobsha Learner: Soul

When a geneticist researching a possible genetic basis for violence kills a man in self defence without compunction she begins to believe that not only a tendency to violence, but also to remorselessness, may be hereditary and that she has inherited those traits from her great grandmother, a woman who was accused of murdering her husband.
In the wake of her action her life starts to spiral out of control. Her husband runs off with her best friend. She suffers from a traumatic miscarriage resulting in infertility. Her colleagues are not supportive of the military funding her research, a subject about which she is severely conflicted, particularly when she discovers the army is keeping information from her. She then discovers that her husband’s lover is pregnant. At each point violence becomes a more and more attractive option until she finds herself planning her ex-husband’s murder.
Interlaced throughout this story is the tale of her great grandmother’s life, from her engagement through to her trial for her husband’s murder.
The book culminates in a revelation about the importance of nurture’s impact on nature. And as vague as this summary is, I can’t really go into any more detail without giving too much away.
I was initially attracted to this story because of the main character’s ethical dilemma about the potential uses of her research and while this is an integral part of her character it isn’t the focus of the entire story and the book is none the worse for that.
This author is known for her erotica collections and there was a touch of erotica in this book but it is a distinctly minor element, thank goodness because her erotic writing style doesn’t appeal to me and is the reason I put off reading this for as long as I have.
I needn’t have worried. I really enjoyed watching the two interwoven stories unfold. The actions of each woman seemed not only completely believable but entirely reasonable from their point of view. Identifying with them as heroines makes the reader think about their own potential for violence in similar circumstances-where exactly would you draw the line.
The plot skips along at times and while that thinness is filled out by great characterization it is a fault that prevents this story from taking the step from very good to great.
It leans heavily towards the literary end of the scale but is highly enjoyable and I will be seeking out more of Ms Learner’s work.-Lynn

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