The Schrödinger Girl, by Laurel Brett

Garrett Adams is stuck in his ways at the beginning of Laurel Brett’s The Schrödinger Girl. It’s 1966 but it might as well be 1956 or 1946 for all Garrett knows. He’s never listened to the Beatles, doesn’t care about politics, and just plugs along as a professor of behavioral psychology. He might have gone on like this forever if he hadn’t made a bonkers promise to himself: that he would invite out to coffee whoever decides to buy the book about Schrödinger’s feline thought experiment that he has just picked up in a New York bookstore. The next person to pick up that book is a young girl named Daphne and Garrett’s life is never the same.

By the time the book closes in 1968, everything in Garrett’s life is different. But, before we get to that point, Garrett has to pull himself out of his existential rut. I felt like I was watching Garrett swing like a pendulum from stick-in-the-mud to full on psychedelic professor. It all starts with the conversation Garrett has with Daphne in a New York diner. They talk about life and music…but not as much physics as Garrett had hoped.

Little does he know that he’s going to get a whopping dose of mind-bending physics when Garrett discovers that there may be more than one Daphne in the world. First, there’s the painting with a dead ringer for Daphne that she swears she never sat for. Then there’s another one; a possible fourth pops up after that. It’s crazy. Or, it might be cutting edge physics. Garrett jumps into Schrödinger and the Many-Worlds Interpretation to try and come up with a logical explanation of why there are so many Daphnes who remember meeting him in a bookstore but seem to have completely different lives after that. While Garrett is having his mind expanded with his Daphne mystery, his life starts to speed up. He reconnects with a woman he dated once. His friend, who Garrett competed with professionally, reveals a troubling secret. Professionally, Garrett is at a crossroads. Will he continue to be a behaviorist? Or will he strike out into new psychological territory that doesn’t involve putting mice into mazes?

My problem with The Schrödinger Girl is that the combination of weird physics and personal growth didn’t really work for me. I wanted to know what was going on with Daphne more than I cared about seeing Garrett learn how to be his own person. The main thrust of the text kept taking us away from Garrett. Over and over, he is faced with the choice of pursuing the mystery or getting on with a somewhat more conventional life. It’s just not that interesting a question for me, and I ended up feeling disappointed by the end of the novel.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss for review consideration.

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