Heather Walsh’s the Drake Equation with its most alluring cover, intrigued me immediately. In astronomical terms, The Drake Equation is the scientific argument that questions whether active intelligent life might exist in our galaxy, based on Frank Drake’s theory.
The book, is an intellectual look into human nature; a true meeting of minds.
Walsh’s characters are multi- layered and colorful. The writing is impressive and thoughtful( I enjoyed the mention of the semi colon in particular – yes, it is rarely used) The story builds gradually, yet lands oh so gently, without drastically altering the heart of the story; Two people with extremely diverse political beliefs, learn about each other while engaging in a series of witty, socially conscious debates. The dynamic between the two young people, who are fiercely independent, yet stuck in their ideologies, makes for a unique look into the success of a relationship, not based on wealth or social status.
Emily is a stubbornly modern, ultra liberal 26 yr old, whose identity is important to her. She is passionate about the environment and not just her place in the world, but the world we might leave our children. She is slightly dogmatic, but not overbearing, which makes her quirky, not unpleasant. Every bit the 21st century girl with a social conscience, Emily’s character seems almost autobiographical, she is that real. Her empathy, her sense of right and wrong, her moral convictions – she falters here, for she is not always right, made me relate to her that much more. Walsh carefully captures her insecurities, the goings-on in her head, to build character. Her youthfulness is abundantly clear, yet, she is not overly consumed with things that generally bother a twenty something woman. There is a sense of an old soul within.
Emily works for GeoForce, a non-profit environmental organization. She works with an interesting group of people :her strikingly enigmatic friend Carson, who is openly gay. Rachel, a 21 yr old with her own agenda and her boss Andy, who as far as human beings go, is marvelously unprejudiced, a bit eccentric and also liberal. She meets Robert at her annual ‘Give up your SUV for a day’ rally, where she works very hard to convince the mostly working class community, in her town, to eschew the gas guzzling, environmentally un-friendly SUV in favor of a more eco- friendly, zero emissions vehicle. Sparks fly immediately between the two of them, although Emily is quick to hold back, strongly clinging to her convictions, in spite of a growing attraction.
Robert is conservative, every bit the Republican and supposedly the “realistic” one. He speaks a little too dispassionately at times when juxtaposed with Emily’s passionate speeches. Then again, it could be because she comes on very strong in certain instances. He certainly fits the bill in terms of his preppy style and job. He does PR work for a large motorcar company which sells ‘that’ most hated SUV. Emily of course becomes prickly when this little fact is revealed. But it doesn’t stop her from being a little bit curious about what makes Robert tick. She likes him, but he is so different from her, is he worth her while? Emily is one of those women who is so caught up in her experience with the universe, that she appears uncompromising.
Robert’s character is well-developed. There is a kindness to him, his arguments are solid, he stands his ground. In fact, some political debates on T.V. could take notes. He leaves Emily in the dust quite a bit. He clearly likes the challenge she presents and lights up at the thought of being with her, his intellectual equal. Those dynamics were important to me as a reader. In spite of being a conservative, he admires Emily’s passion and seems drawn to it.
I couldn’t help but think of Democratic political pundit James Carville and his strong, Republican (political pundit) wife – Mary Matalin. I wondered which side Heather was on, sometimes I felt it was Emily and sometimes it was Robert.
Romance novels can be a little tricky. The story is often soppy, with a tendency to test the characters emotional depth, rather than make it intelligent. This book is intelligent. I enjoy a good political debate and this book certainly challenges political affiliations, I liked it for that reason. It also asks important questions: are you responsible for the world you live in? do you care about the environment and your community? How do you give back?
While the romantic aspect of the book was fun to explore. I preferred the conscious decision to explore human nature first. In adding these realistic conversations that move simultaneously between amusing banter and irritable explosions, Walsh maintained a depth, cleverly exploring why humans find comfort in black and white, not color. Why they hold on to beliefs so strongly, unwilling to step out of their box, their comfort zone. Why change is often difficult to endure and why our beliefs truly limit us from accepting another person’s point of view. A well written and well-rounded book that left my mind ticking for a long while.
Book – The Drake Equation by Heather Walsh
- Kindle Edition, author’s review copy, 522 pages
- First Edition, 2013