Sunday, July 25, 2010

I See You Everywhere

By Julia Glass

New York, Anchor Books, 2008

Week 30       Fiction

While I was reading this novel, I had my twin granddaughters at my house, and as the novel unfolded, I compared the relationship of Maya and Cecilia, my granddaughters, to Clem and Louisa in the book. Maya and Cecilia are incredibly close and supportive. Louisa and Clem have had a rivalry from birth for primacy in their mother’s life. Rather early on, Louisa realizes that Clem is her mother’s favorite, and while that colors her feelings about her sister, they are bonded to each other, as only sisters can be.

Louisa has a life as a magazine editor in New York, and is monogamous. Clem is a biologist, who travels the world rescuing animals and bedding co-workers. Yet, whenever something happens in one of their lives, they immediately seek out the other. The book spans a 25-year period, and the two sisters take turns telling the story, a device that seems to work well.

Frankly, I didn’t really relate well to this book; I couldn’t help but love the adventurer, Clem, and never got “into” Louise and her anxieties. Yet, when an unexpected tragedy emerges in the last part of the book, I couldn’t stop reading. At that point, I found that I cared. Like all good novels, the reader’s identification with the characters intensifies until the book’s climax. I did think that the cover really told the story well.
Reviewers called this Glass’s most auto-biographical novel. One of her books, Three Junes, was the National Book Award winner, so her writing is well acknowledged. The Seattle Times reviewer says,

“There is a constant danger that this story, with its recurrent theme of feuding between the sisters, will become monotonous. But such is the power of Glass' writing that we glide along with her. A deft twist at the end makes for a most moving finish.”

The interesting thing to me is that I wasn’t annoyed with the feuding, as were many of the reviewers; I only saw the bond. Could that be because I am so bonded to my own sisters that it was what I recognized? Or is it because feuding is just one component to the complex sister relationship that I know so well? I am reminded of the old song, “Lord, help the mister, who comes between me and my sister, and Lord help the sister that comes between me and my man!” I sang that song to my granddaughters, and even though they are just nine, they understood.

Here is the review in the New York Times:

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