THE EVOLUTION OF JANE by Cathleen Schine

THE EVOLUTION OF JANE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Schine's fifth novel (after the bestselling The Love Letter, 1995) again focuses on quiet revelations and the slow process of discovering what matters--as, here, a meek young woman on the rebound from a disastrous marriage escapes to the Gal‡pagos Islands, only to run into her best friend from childhood. While a Gal‡pagos tour might seem an unlikely choice for a woman in distress, Jane doesn't think twice when her mother suggests she go to forget her troubles. She outfits herself for every contingency--except one, which she encounters immediately on arrival: her long-lost cousin Martha, now her tour group's guide. As Martha shows them the natural marvels that set Darwin to thinking along evolutionary lines, Jane ponders the evolution of her own life after the abrupt, unexplained exit of her cousin, who'd been her next-door neighbor and closest friend into adolescence. Not willing to broach the subject to Martha, but convinced that the traumatic separation was somehow her fault, Jane speculates endlessly as to the cause, and so relives a tortured family history complete with living in a town named for her ancestor, a mysterious feud that left her parents refusing to speak to Martha's parents, and an earthy great-aunt who in her declining years came to live with the family--and who later accidentally set fire to their house. Struggle as she might to stay focused on the trip at hand, Jane alternates her musings on speciation with these blasts from the past, and when a mild flirtation with a tour member seems threatened by Martha, she has an emotional, and physical, melt-down. Eventually, however, she realizes she doesn't have to blame herself for long-ago breach--and with that insight comes new information about the family's darker secrets. In spite of genteel trappings and an exotic locale, which serves as little more than a painted backdrop: a penetrating, smooth, and often clever portrait of a woman finding herself.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 054752031X
Page count: 210pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin