When "Jane Doe" was airlifted to her Seattle ICU from the Olympic Peninsula, Dr. Charlotte Reese had no idea how intertwined their lives would become. Gemini, Carol Cassella's third novel, following Oxygen and Healer, presents a medical mystery, an ethical conundrum and a love story, with one question at its heart: Who is Jane Doe?

An answer would make Charlotte's job easier: identification of the unconscious patient would mean a relative could make decisions and guide Jane's fate. But nobody is looking for Jane, until Charlotte's long-time partner, Eric, who lived on the Peninsula as a teenager, realizes that Jane is his old friend Renee.

The novel alternates between chapters titled "Charlotte" and "Renee," and the reader learns how "twinned" the two women become. While Charlotte's chapters are set in the story's immediate present, Renee's encompass her life from childhood--including her friendship with Eric--up to the accident that brought her to Charlotte's care. With Eric's support, Charlotte's compassion for her struggling patient extends beyond the bounds of medicine, leading them to Renee's adolescent son and truths that affect them all deeply.

Cassella includes medical and genetic specifics that in a less-carefully crafted work might overwhelm a reader, but are balanced here by compelling characters and plotlines. The breathtaking, hardscrabble beauty of the rural Pacific coast, the tenacity of Charlotte and Renee, Eric and Charlotte's loyalty and love all mesh in an engrossing story with a miraculous conclusion. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller, Book Passage, San Francisco

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