Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: murder, dissection, corpses, abuse (child, spousal, and emotional)
Orphan Black meets Stepford Wives in this twisty, heart-wrenching exploration of marriage, identity, cycles of abuse, and healing. Evelyn Caldwell is an award-winning scientist who specializes in cloning. Martine is everything Evelyn is not, a facsimile of the perfect wife. Until the cheating husband, Nathan, winds up dead. And the journey Gailey takes us on requires a hard examination of self and a weighted blanket to get to its hopeful conclusion.
Author Sarah Gailey will be featured in a blog interview on February 18th, 2021.
Gailey writes deeply character-driven novels and this science fiction entry is no exception. This could not be anyone’s story other than Evelyn Caldwell, but the way it calls to certain feelings and patterns cemented the allegory in a specific experience, with some future-tech thrown in to add even more layers.
One thing that worked effectively for me were the intertwining flashbacks between Evelyn’s upbringing of an uptight parent paired with a docile spouse and hers and Nathan’s courtship. So many of the themes explored felt inevitable, but that’s what made this story really work for me. It’s definitely more introspective than focusing on big set pieces. Evelyn tries to prove herself to the reader and ultimately to herself, even though she doesn’t have to.
The reveal towards the end is shocking, but is easy to spot from a distance and if you know anything about the cycle of abusive relationships. There’s a coldness from Evelyn’s point of view that makes the reader want to whisk her and Martine away. Their dichotomy really shines as they mirror each other, with one personality not necessarily being better than the other. They both deserve respect and affection, and Gailey offers them both such dimensionality, even though the story is told from perspective.
Heart-wrenching with gorgeous prose, this character-driven account of a researcher and her clone trying to fix a terrible situation is something to behold.