Lots of time to enter BAFAB – it always surprises me that over a hundred people popped by today, and not all of them want a free book! Do head over to Jenny’s BAFAB draw, too. Oh, free books. Gotta love ’em! If you can’t use the comments thing on Blogger, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll put your name in that way.
As promised, going to chat about Identical Strangers today. I bought it in Kensington on Saturday, and it leapt right to the top of my tbr pile. I love it when a book comes along which is impossible to resist…
Identical Strangers is non-fiction, by and about Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein. They were both adopted from Louise Wise Services, but it wasn’t until Elyse was 35 and contacted the adoption service for nonidentifying information about her birth mother that she discovered… she is an identical twin. Paula was equally astonished when she got a ‘phone call : “I’ve got some news for you. I hate to dump this on you, but you’ve got a twin.” Paula tries to ‘phone back the director of post-adoption services… and accidentally calls the number for her twin sister. They speak for the first time at 35.
I, as you may know, am absolutely fascinated by twins – in fact and fiction. And I am a twin myself, which accelerates my interest. Even without this predilection for twin literature, I think anyone would be intrigued, moved and compelled by Identical Strangers. Paula and Elyse tell their narratives in distinct paragraphs, alternately headed by their names, and it helps that both have been or are professional film reviewers, and are talented writers. They talk us through the experience of discovering that they are twins, and the first times they speak, and meet. This would be really interesting in fiction, but in non-fiction it is enthralling and honest. Paula is married with a child, and unsure that she wants to add to her family – Elyse, who is single and started the search, can’t understand why Paula isn’t as excited as she is herself. All sorts of issues about identity and self are reared – they both find it difficult to see their own mannerisms in the other (and think them exaggerated), and begin to feel possessive about their characteristics.
Alongside their journey, they’ve done some impressive research, and present it well. There are other examples of separated twins; theories on nature/nurture; how twins differ from ‘normal’ siblings. I lap all this stuff up – though, as usual, as a dizygotic /non-identical/fraternal twin, I’m rather sidelined. We’re always seen as something rather insignificant in comparison to identical twins… Colin aka The Carbon Copy isn’t a carbon copy really, you see, though we look similar enough that people still mix us up. Being a twin, I can understand their anger at being separated – and I can’t imagine how any child psychologists believed it was the accurate choice to make. Apparently some people believed being a twin was a “burden to the child and parents”… seething doesn’t begin to cover it. What would my life be like without having grown up with Col? I don’t want to think.
We follow Paula and Elyse through a couple of years – the joy, the excitement, the bickering, the discovering of their extraordinary relationship. A driving force of this book is their quest to find answers to questions – why were they separated? Why weren’t their respective adoptive parents told that they were twins? Who idea was it, and what were the theories behind separation? And then they begin trying to locate their birth mother.
A fascinating topic, well told by engaging, honest people experiencing a rollercoaster of events. Do go and check it out.