A powerful 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 reach their targets in the brain, where smell is processed? Justin McKinnon has hired Emily Apell 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.
From the Author:
Before I became a novelist, I was a research scientist living the 24/7 lifestyle of high stakes scientific research and devouring novels in my spare time. I had always wanted to write fiction, but there was never enough time. Then, when our children were born (my husband and I had boy and girl twins) I left my career in science and began to write every day.
I wrote short stories about science and nature and created a fictional character named Emily: a quirky unsociable girl from Rockford, Illinois, who is in love with a song by Pink Floyd called Breathe, and whose father Roger is a taciturn chemist and a bird watcher obsessed with a pileated woodpecker living in the woods behind their house. Emily and her father found their way to several published stories, among them my first one: Breathe. In parallel to my short fiction I began to write a novel that would eventually become The DNA of You and Me.
In this novel I wanted to capture my life in science research and the lives of friends and the people I had known and interacted with throughout my career. Mainly, I wanted to portray the cutthroat environment that is prevalent in most world-class research labs, but also the love for science and pursuit of truth that brings most people into that world in the first place, before the competition and the struggle to stay in the ivory tower take center stage.
What I wanted most during those early years drafting my novel was to paint a realistic portrait of the steep and often unforgiving slope leading to scientific discovery. But this didn’t come easily. I hadn’t found the right narrative voice for the story I wanted to tell, and lacked a clear understanding of how to tell it. Eventually, after a few wrong turns, I realized that to write the novel I envisioned, I would need to do so through the eyes of someone who was nothing like me: the kind of person for whom science and scientific discovery was above everything else, including family and also, to a degree, a personal life. This someone, I discovered, was Emily, the character I had been developing in the pages of my short stories all along. The girl from the Midwest with the red hair and the love for snow and Pink Floyd had matured into the protagonist of The DNA of You and Me: the ambitious and lonely young woman who joins a famous research laboratory in New York City in the hopes of making an important scientific discovery and meets Aeden Doherty, a senior colleague and competitor in the lab who ends up becoming the love of her life.
The DNA of You and Me is ultimately a novel about choice, but also identity. It’s about one person looking back on her life and weighing her actions and the irrevocable decision she made twelve years earlier: what she lost as a result of that decision and what she ultimately discovered about herself.