What happens when identical twins, born to a teenage mother who’s unable to cope and abandons them, are separately adopted after their less-than-ideal start in life and brought up in decidedly disparate family circumstances?
Yes, I know, it would be unlikely to happen nowadays, when every effort is made to keep adopted siblings together. But it did happen like that in days gone by for various reasons, often, probably, because it was difficult to find would-be adopter parents willing to take on two babies or children together.
So what might happen?
Would the two little individuals – who, but for a very rare chance happening in the first stages of the fertilised egg’s cell division and multiplication, when they separated to become two distinct foetuses – really be, and remain, perfect genetic carbon copies of each other? Or would they, under the influence of differing family environments and social conditions, diverge?
There have been many well-documented cases of separately raised identical twins displaying quite remarkable similarities of character, outlook, aptitude and so on – even life choices. But it isn’t clear-cut. The nature (genetic inheritance) versus nurture (influences of upbringing) debate continues to rumble on.
BBC popular science presenters Michael Moseley and Alice Roberts recently rehearsed the debate yet again although, admittedly, with reference to gender rather than identical twins. It’s the same argument though. Are the things that fundamentally make us tick innate, or acquired and learned?
In my new novel The One of Us, published now, I set up this situation and pose that question.
My answer to myself is that it’s a mixture of the two. The protagonists Tomos and Wayne aspire to very different courses for their lives, although deep down their motivations are quite similar. They’re both altruists. They both want to Do the Right Thing. But they express it, because of their disparate upbringings, in very different ways.
In the end though, they do achieve a coming together, although in an astonishingly unusual and highly emotionally-charged way. Which I couldn’t possibly divulge, of course!
The One of Us is available now at generous discount from Autharium.com here; from Amazon UK or Amazon US; and from other retailers soon.