The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

March 19, 2010

Cari Boatright Rerat: Biography captures couple’s relationship amidst controversy



Normally, I don’t read nonfiction. I want action. I want characters I can like or dislike; heroes and villains.

I want to escape into a good story. I don’t want to feel like I have to trudge through a book because “it’s good for me.”

As a librarian (and perhaps a well-educated person), I feel like I should read nonfiction. But as a story lover, I’m only going to read nonfiction that doesn’t feel like it’s “good for me.”

“Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith,” by Deborah Heiligman, is a biography that fit the bill nicely.

This book is the true love story of Charles Darwin and Emma Wedgewood. It begins with Darwin’s pro-and-con list over whether to find someone to marry.

Under “not marry” is the fear that having a wife will take too much time away from his scientific work, while under “marry” is the fear of living his whole life alone with only his work. Darwin spends a lot of time and thought on this list, but ultimately, “Marry” wins over and he decides to find a wife.

Before he can begin his search, he has one more fear to deal with: his doubts about God and creation. While looser interpretations of the Bible are beginning to be accepted, he is afraid that his religious doubts will drive a wedge between him and any possible bride.

Darwin isn’t the kind of man to keep such an important issue to himself, though his father strongly urges him to do just that. When he decides that Wedgewood could be his bride and “constant companion,” he tells her everything.

Wedgewood believes devoutly in God, creation and heaven, so telling her of his doubts is a big risk — he could lose the love of his life.

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