Andrea Rothman’s debut novel tells the story of Emily Apell, an accomplished scientist who studies smell: “Smell is an illusion, my father used to tell me: invisible molecules in the air converted by my brain into cinnamon, cut grass, burning wood.” Illusion or not, Emily’s work is certainly illusive. Allergic to cut grass from a young age and raised by a scientist single father, Emily comes to a new job at a laboratory in New York City, where she is hired to map how smell is processed.
Emily’s research is closely related to that of two other lab workers, Aeden and Allegra, who are less than thrilled with Emily’s presence. As Aeden and Allegra’s research misses its mark, Emily pulls Aeden onto her project, which has the potential to be a success. And despite her usual lone-wolf nature, Emily is attracted to Aeden.
Emily and Aeden’s research progresses, as does their relationship, and soon Emily finds herself at a crossroads: She can continue with her career aspirations or leave the lab with Aeden and explore whether the things society wants for her—a husband and children—are things she actually wants for herself.
With crisp descriptions and keen observations, author and neuroscientist Rothman creates a realistic picture of the life of a scientific researcher, including the long, lonely hours in a lab, the envious and possessive behavior of other scientists and the highly competitive nature of publishing scientific results. Fresh and intelligent, The DNA of You and Me is a tale of a modern woman in science, though it can be enjoyed by any reader working to balance career ambitions with the possibility of a family.