GEMINI by Carol Cassella

Book Quote:

“It is natural law that all complex systems move from a state of order to disorder. Stars decay, mountains erode, ice melts. People get off no easier. We get old or injured and inevitably slide right back into the elements we were first made from. The organized masterpiece of conception, birth, and maturation is really only two steps forward before three steps back, at least in the physical world. Sometimes when Charlotte lost a patient she thought about that and found it comforting—a reminder that she hadn’t failed in what was ultimately an unwinnable game. But if she thought about it too long, she had to wonder if her entire medical career was an interminable battle against the will of the universe.”

Book Review:

Review by Jana L. Perskie (MAR 3, 2014)

Gemini is an intensely absorbing novel which I found difficult to put down. It is a very human tale which delves deeply into subjects like love in its many shapes and forms, and time – too little time, not enough time, counting time, too late. The author, Carol Cassella, uses time to move her storyline back and forth in years, seamlessly weaving together the characters and the events which impact them.

The novel is narrated by two characters in alternating chapters: Raney, (Renee Lee Remington), an adolescent when the story begins, unfolds her life over the years. She is an illegitimate child, abandoned by her mother and birth father. Raney lives with her extremely eccentric grandfather, who adores her, in the small town of Quentin, WA, near Olympic National Park. He goes so far as to build an underground bunker, fully supplied for TEOTWAWKI, (“The End Of The World As We Know It).” Raney shows artistic promise at an early age and paints on plywood with house paint because she cannot afford canvas and oils. This girl/woman tells of her teenage friendship with Bo, a rich, awkward and shy boy from Seattle who is visiting his aunt for the summer while his parents are off somewhere getting a divorce.

Dr. Charlotte Reese, is a physician who specializes in the care and treatment of patients in intensive care at Beacon Hospital near Puget Sound, WA. She is a committed doctor, who cares deeply about her patients. Charlotte is in a long term relationship with Eric Bryson, a science journalist, who loves her but has a hard time committing to marriage and, eventually, to having children.

There is an important 3rd character here, one without a voice. Jane Doe.

Charlotte is on duty when a horribly injured woman is admitted to the hospital. It is 3:00 A.M. when the woman, whisked in a medivac helicopter to Beacon’s intensive care unit, is given into Charlotte’s care. As the patient has no identification on her she is tagged with the moniker of Jane Doe, until someone comes to claim her and provide the necessary background information. On arrival she has “no fewer than five tubes: one down her throat, another in her neck, two in her left arm, and one looping from her bladder. She arrives with a splint on her right arm, a scaffold of hardware stabilizing her lower right leg, and so much edema that her skin is pocked with the medics handprints.” She is the apparent victim of a hit and run. Her body was discovered by a truck driver who found her in a ditch beside the highway. He immediately called 911.

In the beginning Charlotte’s only goal is to keep her patient alive. Charlotte becomes deeply involved in solving the mystery of “Jane’s” identity and in locating her family. But as days and weeks pass, Jane Doe remains in a medically induced coma to allow her brain to heal while her body tries to heal itself also. Because her coma is medically induced it is impossible to test for brain death as it would involve removing her life support. So, the test would, in fact, kill her.

“Earlier Charlotte had had a conversation with her boyfriend, Eric, who’d more than once watched her throw the weight of modern medicine along with her single-minded will against all natural forces to keep a patient alive, only to lose in the end. Eric had challenged her on it that day. ‘Should quantity of life always trump quality? Maybe you set your goals too high.’ ‘”

When no one comes forward to give information about Jane Doe, an ethical and medical dilemma occurs. Ought “the plug be pulled.” Jane is assigned a professional guardian ad litem – someone to act on her behalf as her next of kin.

Gemini is set in a time of incredible medical technology, (late 1980s), when bodies can be kept breathing even when other physical functions are shutting down. New research in DNA testing and genetics began to emerge in 1985. Researchers did not understand until then exactly how traits were passed to the next generation. Genetics plays an important role here.

Gemini is filled with mysteries, so much so that I was kept guessing until the end…which is not predictable, at least not to me. There are family secrets, medical mysteries, and ethical dilemmas. The author carefully ties the characters and various storylines together and the complicated puzzle that involves the lives of Jane Doe and Charlotte Reese is originally resolved.

The title “Gemini” refers to the heavenly constellation of the same name. The star configuration is related to a Greek myth about the twin brothers Castor and Pollux. Both were mothered by Leda, but they had different fathers: In one night, Leda was made pregnant both by Jupiter in the form of a swan and by her husband, the king Tyndarus of Sparta. The most common explanation for their presence in the heavens is that Pollux was overcome with sorrow when his mortal brother died, and begged Jupiter to allow him to share his immortality. Jupiter, acknowledging the heroism of both brothers, consented and reunited the pair in the heavens.

I found this book to be one of the best I have read in years. The narrative just flows. I identified with the characters and the complexities of their relationships. I wouldn’t recommend it as a light beach read, however. Although not necessarily a “downer,” I found myself feeling terribly sad and thoughtful at times. But Gemini is about real life, and real life isn’t always an “upper.”

AMAZON READER RATING: from 65 readers
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster (March 4, 2014)
REVIEWER: Jana L. Perskie
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Carol Cassella
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
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March 3, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense

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