Eileen PollackIllustration by Keara McGraw
Eileen Pollack, author of The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys’ Club, hinted at the complexity of the relationship between science and the soul in a recent essay: “We need scientists who recognize the reality of this illusion we still call the soul and artists who know how intimately the reality of that soul will remain connected to the physical world-to science.”
In many ways, her fiction follows this suggestion. It draws on her scientific background-she graduated from Yale University in 1978 with a BS in Physics-and her later pursuits in literature, philosophy, and creative writing as a graduate student.
In her latest novel, A Perfect Life, for example, published last month, a woman researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is obsessed with finding the genetic marker for Valentine’s Disease, the heritable neurological disorder that killed her mother. Though the story derives its momentum from a scientific mystery, it still manages to present profound questions around the giving and taking of life, destiny and free will. “I felt like it brought together all the parts of my life,” says Pollack. She was still “very much…