“THE UNIFIED THEORY OF LOVE AND EVERYTHING,”
BY TRAVIS NEIGHBOR WARD
PUBLICATION: NORTHSIDE BOOKS; OCTOBER 17, 2016
Emerson Wheeler has everything she ever wanted: two beautiful daughters, a reliable husband, and a modest gardening business in a small town. But after her estranged father commits suicide, she has to face facts. She’s been lying to people her whole life, and her unhappy marriage is keeping her from knowing her true self.
Finn Lowell is a married father of two and a Navy police officer. After a childhood of abuse, he has a hard time trusting people. Soon he must decide whether to continue in active duty and risk being deployed overseas. If he quits, he can spend the summer at his lake house alone with his sons.
When Emerson volunteers to help Sybil Hay, a reclusive physicist, with her rundown estate in Delphi, Georgia, she’s in for a surprise: Finn works there in his free time. Emerson has only met him once through her husband, but it convinced her that spending time together could be dangerous because of their attraction. Equally dangerous are Sybil’s unconventional beliefs about love, which date back to a mysterious summer she spent with Albert Einstein.
After Sybil falls ill, Finn makes Emerson an outrageous offer that will test everything they stand for. And through it, they will discover their deepest fears and dreams, while uncovering secrets they never knew.
In the literary romance THE UNIFIED THEORY OF LOVE AND EVERYTHING, Travis Neighbor Ward takes readers on a journey into the heart of marriage, friendship, and what it means to love someone.
Last night I started and finished “The Unified Theory of Love and Everything,” and thought it was absolutely outstanding. The story begins with Emerson who is struggling to build and maintain a gardening business. Married with two children, she is clearly unhappy with her marriage and having a lot of “what if” moments about her life. Her husband, Holt, is an astronomer/scientist that seems to care about two things – working and working out. Holt demonstrates no real interest in Emerson unless it’s making sure she will be there for the kids and is unsupportive of her business. Emerson is trying to secure the job of fixing up the garden at the beautiful Hay Manor, which is the home of an aging physicist that was pushed out of her career at the local college and also spent a romantic and unusual summer with Albert Einstein many years ago. Hay Manor is where she also reconnects with an acquaintance of Holt’s, Finn Lowell, who is a Master at Arms in the Navy. The two quickly become close friends as they work at the Manor and build a strong relationship with Sybil, all the while trying to deny their forbidden attraction to one another.
Let me start by saying, this probably isn’t a great choice of novels for someone sensitive to the topic of adultery. I’m not talking running off to a hotel to sneak around but the bond and feelings that can develop between two people who are married to others. However, adultery is not the point of this novel. Emerson and Finn are both amazing characters that are at turning points in their lives. Finn is trying to decide whether to retire or re-enlist in the Navy. Emerson is trying to follow her dreams by building a gardening and landscaping business, and honestly – trying to establish her self-worth beyond being a mother and a wife. True, honest conversation between Emerson and Finn comes regularly and easily, unlike the way it is with their spouses. They also form a strong bond spending time with and eventually, taking care of Sybil as her health fails. Their relationship poses the question, does there have to be intimacy or sexual contact in order to call a relationship an “affair?” Also, do years of marriage have to result in growing apart?
I found this novel extremely moving and thought-provoking, however, there are moments so real and honest you can feel it in your bones as you are reading. Moments when Emerson tries to initiate intimacy with her husband, are excruciating and leave you feeling as humiliated and rejected as she was. There were also several moments when they were talking or arguing where I wanted to just smack Holt in the head and say, “support and love this woman or just go away!” Finn’s situation with his wife, Jennifer, was equally frustrating but in a different way. Finn and Jennifer just seemed to have very little in common other than being husband and wife and parents to their two sons. It was very clear that they didn’t share any inner hopes or dreams with one another, and that they honestly did not know the other person at all.
I was mesmerized by Travis Neighbor Ward’s writing from beginning to end, found this to be a beautiful story. The ending may not be agreeable or appealing to everyone, but I found it to be perfect. There were no elaborate, dramatic details, things just seemed to fall into place. Emerson, Finn, and Sybil are some of the most uniquely developed characters that I have read, and will not soon forget about them. “The Unified Theory of Love and Everything” has undoubtedly had more impact on me than anything I have read due to its honesty and emotion. I highly recommend this novel to any readers that enjoy Literary or Women’s fiction.
Learn more about Travis Neighbor Ward by visiting her web page.
Purchase “The Unified Theory of Love and Everything” on Amazon.
*Thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.