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May 13, 2016

Book Review || The Truth Teller by Angela Hunt

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Angela Hunt's 'The Truth Teller' is a compelling and powerful novel about spirituality and science, and how the two subjects have become intertwined in a world geared towards science and morality rather than religion and spirituality.

Unusually, the first reading we are presented with in this novel is a 'Publisher's Note' that admits that when the novel was first published, readers were not as much in tune with science and genetics as they are today. Indeed, science and geneticism has become somewhat mainstream over the last few years, what with the rise of scientists such as Bill Nye the Science Guy and Neil deGrasse Tyson into popular culture and the concerns about the proliferation of genetically-modified produce on our shelves.

To me, this is basically an admission - or warning? - that the book is a sort of premonition to the possibilities of gene therapy, and of course how it can all go wrong.

At its centre, the novel is about Lara Godfrey, an incredibly religious woman who has managed to find peace with the recent death of her husband Michael to cancer. She realises that she can fulfil their desires for having a child by being artificially inseminated by the husband of a good friend of her's, Dr Helmut Braun. However, Braun's own desperation for success and renown places Lara and her child at the centre of the world of a rich, powerful and seductive businessman, Devin Sloane. Sloane believes that the human gene is devolving as a result of damage from external environmental factors and also because of disease. He persuades Braun to use the genetic information of a 5,600-year-old mummy when inseminating Lara, with the purpose of discovering the pure genetic line of our ancestors and possibly healing the human gene. However, his ultimate desires are much more sinister, as are his means to getting what he wants.

Once you get into the novel, it really is an addictive read, compelling you to discover how Lara's destiny plays out. Dotted with the minor themes of love, grief, and motherhood are the themes of God's ultimate purpose for us and blind faith in his knowledge, as represented by Lara, perfectly juxtaposed with the hard science and frank factual nature of biological and genetic processes, as represented by Devin. It would appear that the novel's message is that, while we are improving our lives and health through science, blind faith in science alone will lead us down paths that are selfish, uncompromising, and eventually just plain evil.

Reading the final few chapters really leaves you with your finger ready to turn the page as soon as you've read the last text on it, as the thrilling serendipity of Lara's faith and science's failure come to their inevitable meeting place.

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