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The Evolution of Jane (3 Cassettes)

The Evolution of Jane (3 Cassettes)

by Cathleen Schine
Jane Barlow Schwartz is obsessed with one question: why did her best friend Martha stop being her best friend? The two girls, distant cousins, had shared idyllic childhood summers in the New England seaside town named for their family's founding fathers. Martha was not just Jane's friend, but her soul mate, her confidante. Then, somewhere along the line, the


Jane Barlow Schwartz is obsessed with one question: why did her best friend Martha stop being her best friend? The two girls, distant cousins, had shared idyllic childhood summers in the New England seaside town named for their family's founding fathers. Martha was not just Jane's friend, but her soul mate, her confidante. Then, somewhere along the line, the friendship ended. What went wrong? Was it the family feud, which their parents spoke of only in hushed tones? What did Jane's dotty great-aunt reveal to Martha on her deathbed? Did Jane do something unforgivable?

When the cousins are reunited unexpectedly on a tour of the Galápagos Islands, they meet Darwin head-on. In the pristine Galápagos waters, amid blue-footed boobies and red-lipped batfish, Jane traces back through her Yankee-Cuban-Jewish ancestry to try to pinpoint the "splitting event," the moment when Martha was no longer the Martha she knew.

Bearing Schine's rich wit and playful imagination, "The Evolution of Jane" sparkles with keenly comic observations on the species known as humans. Above all, it is a warm-hearted tribute to that unique adaptation of girlhood, the selection of a vert best friend.

Editorial Reviews

Schine has written several successful, comically affectionate investigations into the human heart. This is not one of them.
Jane is on a nature tour of the Galapagos Islands, where Darwin developed his theory of evolution, to “recover” from her divorce—even though, she states unequivocally, the divorce was far less stressful to her psyche than the memory of being inexplicably rejected by her cousin and best friend, Martha, in high school.
When Martha turns up as the tour guide on Jane’s trip, Jane becomes obsessed with trying to find an explanation for the breach of friendship, ultimately turning to Darwin’s evolutionary theories. Schine gets points for effort, but unfortunately the results are ridiculous.
“And so, as I mulled over the problem of species, I recognized that there existed between the origins of life and Martha Barlow an important link: the confusion experienced by Jane Barlow Schwartz. This link was extremely suggestive. It seemed to promise some related solution. If A = (?) and B = (?), then all one has to prove is (?). It was obvious. The mechanism that explained the transmutation of species would explain Martha’s transmutation, the transmutation of friendship.”
Read Schine’s last novel, The Love Letter, instead.
—Nan Goldberg
Library Journal
A best friend is a terrible thing to lose, especially in Schine's quirky world. Twenty-four-year-old Jane Barlow Schwartz is widely consoled when her husband walks out after six months of marriage, but she is more bereft about the end of her relationship with distant cousin and best friend Martha Barlow years earlier. A diverting trip to the Galapagos Islands for longtime Darwin fan Jane -- who's long wondered about how to distinguish a species -- only ratchets up her vexations, for the tour guide is none other than Martha. Schine plays it all like a fine instrument: Jane's musings about evolution and friendship, the Jane-Martha interaction and the whispered-about Barlow family feud, the camaraderie among the disparate tour members, and descriptions of the islands and their flora and fauna. Thought-provoking and amusing, this is a literary treat. -- Michele Leber, Fairfax County Public Library, Virginia
Barbara Kingsolver
. . .[A] reverse allegory in which the large, real-world principles of natural selection and speciation are used to shet light ont he small particualars of a character's life. . . .the writing is fine and the plot gambols along enjoyable to its conclusion. . . .Cathleen Schine. . .makes chaos theory and speciation sound like fun. -- The New York Times Book Review
Childhood memories, anger, curiosity, and love resurface as Jane spends the rest of her trip -- and Schine, the rest of this clever novel -- contemplating evolution, wildlife and the mysteries of friendship. Equal parts fascinating science lesson and love story.
Kirkus Reviews
Schine's fifth novel (after the bestselling The Love Letter) 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 Galapagos Islands, only to run into her best friend from childhood. While a Galapagos 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 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, meltdown. Eventually, however, she realizes she doesn't have to blame herself for long-ago breach—and withthat 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.

Product Details

Brilliance Audio
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Product dimensions:
4.26(w) x 7.04(h) x 1.74(d)

Meet the Author

Cathleen Schine is the author of four previous novels, including the national bestseller, The Love Letter, which was translated into twelve languages. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, the writer David Denby, and their two sons.

Brief Biography

New York, New York, and Venice, California
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Bridgeport, Connecticut
B.A., Barnard College, 1976

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