Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith — Deborah Heiligman

Heiligman, Deborah. Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith. Henry Holt, 2009. 272p. Grades 9-12. Nonfiction. (Printz Honor).

Heiligman-Charles&Emma

Charles and Emma Darwin had differing opinions on faith and God. The both struggled to reconcile their feeling for each other with these contrasting views.  This did not stop them from having a long and loving marriage.

Review: Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith was informative, but repetitive. I was really excited to read Charles and Emma, but I was let down. While the book was informative, it was not interesting. The main point of the entire novel was the struggle Emma had with Charles’ lack of faith, but it never got resolved. They just learned to live with their differing opinions. I don’t think this would have been a problem for me because the rest of their life is interesting. Charles Darwin is a huge name in science and is someone every school teaches about. This would make it appeal to anyone interested in science. However, because Heiligman makes faith this huge problem in their relationship and nothing ever changes about it throughout the forty-two years they are married, makes the book seem vaguely like a broken record.

Learning about Charles and Emma’s children and how they coped with losing some was interesting. Being able to get to know the man behind the name makes this book worth reading. I think reading that Charles wondered that because he married his cousin, if their children were sicklier and prone to diseases is interesting. I guess my only problem with this book is that I don’t feel that Heiligman defends her thesis that the Darwins’ took a leap of faith and it was resolved. I think that learning accept each other and live a full and wonderful live despite their differences in belief during a time when religion was a huge part of society is the interesting part of their story. I wish that could have been flushed out more in this book. However, with all of that being said, there is an audience for this book and moreover, I think it would appeal to both sexes, but I think the audience is for students who are at an AP or pre-AP level and take an avid interest in science.

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