A River Divided

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Nature versus nurture. This question has been a source of debate for years. Will two identical twins, separated at birth, live similar lives because of their common genetic structure? Furthermore, the intersection of religion, philosophy, psychology, and genetics can create a murky stew of ethical confusion as one attempts to answer the basic question of determinism versus free will.

George Paxinos, in A River Divided, steps adroitly through this minefield of conflicting opinions and delivers a fascinating novel and treatise on the mystery of human cloning. A Greek-Australian neuroscientist, Paxinos has published fifty-eight books and is notable for developing the first comprehensive nomenclature and ontology for the brain. In A River Divided, his first novel, he leverages his background and creates a thrilling tale of ethics, science, love, faith, and forgiveness.

Evelyn is a professional geneticist and amateur archaeologist who has been unlucky in love. While not overtly religious, she has a great admiration for Christ. While on vacation in Israel, she discovers an ancient ossuary in the Judean desert. With her close friend Michael, who desires to be her lover, she surreptitiously excavates and opens it and discovers the bones of an ancient male. The top of the skull had been removed. The ossuary also contains several small cylinders which Evelyn illegally removes, along with a fragment of bone, and secrets them back to Australia.

Subsequent carbon dating of the bone determines that the man lived between 30 B.C. and 50 A.D. Evelyn opens the cylinders and finds a scroll that she believes validates her hypothesis of the identity of the individual. The second cylinder contains the brain of the person. The opening of these Pandora’s boxes alters the lives of Evelyn and Michael forever as Evelyn is convinced she holds the brain of Christ in her hands.

Would the world be a better place if clones of Mohammed, Gandhi, or even Christ existed today? Would they achieve what their originals had achieved? Evelyn, desiring a child, clones embryos from the DNA of Christ’s brain. She gives birth to one, named Christopher, while a surrogate mother in South America is engaged to carry the second. However, the surrogate disappears, taking the child with her, setting up the conditions for an unplanned nature versus nurture experiment when the twins meet.

Paxinos delivers a thought-provoking tale as Evelyn plays God with human life. It is also a novel about the foolishness of humans who think that they can control their environment if only they can leverage their brain power to do so. It is a taut, page-turner of a thriller, with well-drawn, sympathetic characters. Well worth the read, just don’t make a copy of it.

Reviewed By:

Author George Paxinos
Star Count 4.5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 367 pages
Publisher Amazonas Press
Publish Date 31-Oct-2023
ISBN 9798218269913 Buy this Book
Issue October 2023
Category Modern Literature


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