The Unified Theory of Love and Everything by Travis Neighbor Ward


“The word rang out in my mind like the distant bell of a church I attended, but wasn’t sure I believed in anymore: Wife! Wife! Wife!”

The most damaging lies of all are the ones we tell ourselves. I’m okay, this is good enough, bury those nagging emotions and self-reflective questions. Sometimes we find ourselves just surviving, ignoring the cracks in our homes, our loved ones, ourselves. Emerson Wheeler seems to be blessed, she has beautiful daughters, a good husband and a small business. So what if her husband sees it more as a hobby? Passionate about her gardening or not, he is the one making money, her business isn’t as fruitful. As for her father’s recent suicide, she should just get over it already, right? As many women feel, “The important thing was to be a great mother no matter how unhappy I was. It was my mantra.”

Sybil Hay is a physicist living in a crumbling estate Hay Manor, that just happens to have a greenhouse Emerson would kill to restore. She may not make money, but it could still lead to experience and help her make a name for herself. Hay herself is thought of as a crack pot, was she really Albert Einstein’s lover once? Surely she is stuck in imaginary daydreams that never could have happened. The woman just may be a catalyst for Emerson’s affairs of the heart. Finn Lowell too has a wife and family, a naval officer with a big decision to make about returning to active duty and deployments. Both he and Emerson feel a forbidden chemistry between them, and when Finn makes an offer she is sure she should refuse what she chooses may alter the course of their lives, and that of their families.

Sybil serves as an excuse for Finn and Emerson to come together, just as much as she pushes them to explore the truths about their families and themselves. Both seem to lean toward each other while also pulling back, a tug of war of longings. It is a story about the choices we make, the risks we sometimes take, and the people we hurt with our honesty.  It can go either direction, self-denial or grabbing what is on offer while readying yourself for the fall-out. Is it braver to deny what the heart wants for the sake of safety, do we risk losing everything for a passion that could just be a passing desire… either way everything has strings attached. Who can judge another’s choices? Marriage can be a safe haven or it can destroy you.

Both Sybil and Finn are lugging around their past like rotting garbage. “My parents were smart and they were talkers, and they unpeeled each other in layers every night while I learned things no child should ever know.”  Our first models of marriage, or partnerships is our parents. Everything that happens touches us, whether we are aware or not. Marriage is a great teacher, no one is unscathed in love, love strips us bare and shows us both beautiful and ugly things about ourselves. Adultery is a different beast. You want to see people get fired up, discuss it! Everyone has an opinion and a judgement, some will throw a book across a room in disgust if characters are cheating. As we get older, things change and our once hot reactions have slowed down, because we know every marriage is it’s own creature. What do we know of another’s heart when half the time we are still figuring out our own? Marriage is a brutal teacher, it’s blood, sweat and tears as much as joy and peace. But when you have to deny your nature, ignore small cruelties on a daily basis, have no one to turn to for support in desperate times- is that a solid marriage?  Love yourself always but what is the point in a partnership if you’re still adrift on your own with the big stuff? Don’t we marry to have that person to fall into, that solid rock of acceptance? Otherwise, why not just be single forever? Isn’t the point communion with another?

Whoa boy, this will be an interesting book club novel. The truth is, every option in life is a loaded one. Everyone comes with strings attached, their history, their funks, their issues and none of us escape the work it takes when you are in love. Every marriage has it’s secrets, it’s woes, it’s rusty cogs. Sometimes you have to find yourself before you can figure out your next move. On the road to self-discovery Emerson uncovers lies and things she should have noticed all along. She also learns she too is imperfect, and Finn isn’t necessarily going to be a knight in shining armor, but just a human with a defunct heart that is as lost as she.

An exploration of love, family, infidelity and a bit of Einstein.

Publication Date: October 17, 2016  Northside Books

as an aside, what a pretty cover.


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