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Double Helix by Eileen Merriman pub. Black Swan, Imprint Penguin Random House, 2021.

July 30, 2021 Comments off

A medical drama out of the top draw for young adults and adults. As is the case of all Eileen Merriman’s novels medical ethics and practice are at the heart of it all which makes the novels such powerful reading.

This novel is about Emily and Jake who have known each other for most of their lives and are fated to be together but for how long? Emily’s father is a doctor and has always pressured her to be a doctor but Emily has doubts. “what if I make a mistake and kill someone?”

Jake is drawn to medicine and wants to be a doctor and regards surgery as survival of the fittest but he has a timebomb within. His mother had Huntingdon’s disease and died when Jake was a teenager. Jake figures he has the gene that will affect his life like that of his mother. One of the messages of this novel is “If you want to spend your whole life worrying about what might happen then you’re missing out”.

The plot moves from Northland to Dunedin to Melbourne as Jake and Emily follow their careers and their relationship. The timebomb within Jake and a dark secret between Jake and Emily underline their lives. Is the double helix of DNA going to dominate their lives together or are other forces going to predominate? Read it and find out.

The medical talk is a highlight of the novel – there is a profile of Huntingdon’s disease- the third most common cause of death from HD is suicide. The gene is passed through to offspring but may not be and how do you know or act if a test is inconclusive? If you know you are going to get it should you leave an Advance directive of what you want to happen when the disease takes hold? What are the family to do if they have to decide or are asked to assist with the death a sufferer?

There are other characters who are worthwhile following – Kylie a flamboyant girl with flaming red hair, Jim, who is Emily’s father and disapproves of Jake and Emily’s relationship and other student and medical associates who party, get drunk, inter-relate plus a gay couple who have a surrogate baby.

The plot has several different time spans from 2003 to 2019 from childhood to university to adulthood and in each relationships advance and change or are fostered. I didn’t know doctors drunk so much. Each chapter is headed by the title of a popular song and there are three parts to the novel in three locations dealing with the drama of the lives of Jake and Emily and all who know them.

Compelling reading from a novelist at the top of her game.

AVAILABLE 31 AUGUST