If you’re very observant and know a little something about the wilder shores of human genetics, then you may be able to figure out the big mystery of Carol Cassella’s new novel by, oh, page 260 or so. Oh yes, the title also gives one a hint as to what’s going on with one of the book’s well-drawn characters. But we should start at the beginning.

Gemini concerns a dedicated and humane doctor, Charlotte Reese, who comes to be the physician for an anonymous woman who is medevaced in from an impoverished Washington town to Dr. Reese’s Seattle hospital in the middle of the night. The Jane Doe is apparently a hit-and-run victim. Conscious when she was first found lying in a ditch by a road, she slips into a coma on the operating table after a fat embolism breaks loose from one of her broken bones and lodges in her brain. Part of the story concerns Charlotte’s struggle over whether to keep Jane Doe alive, or to let her pass on with some kind of dignity.

The other part of the story has to do with Charlotte’s boyfriend of three years, a writer who’s working on a book about genetics. He’s one of the folks in this book whose DNA doesn’t work the way it should. Having inherited neurofibromatosis, as a child he was subject to seizures and later developed benign brain tumors—yes, more than one. Charlotte, who’s desperate to have a child, doesn’t know if Eric’s a good prospect for fatherhood, as the risk of him passing down his affliction is almost a certainty.

But there’s still the problem of Jane Doe. Surely, with the whole world interconnected, she must have family; she must have someone who misses her. Cleverly but incrementally, Cassella—a practicing physician as well as an author—puts together the pieces of Jane Doe’s mystery even as she ponders, through Charlotte, the Big Questions. What is life, anyway? Is it simply one’s genetics? Does it have a purpose? What’s the best way to find love, happiness, peace? Is Jane Doe still in there somewhere, in her ruined, swollen, already decaying body?

As for the mystery’s solution: It explains much, but that’s all you’ll learn from this review!

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