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Untwine by Edwidge Danticat

by Catherine Van Bergen (follow)
Fiction (327)      Young Adult (86)      Grief (9)      Twins (3)     


They say that there is no closer family relationship than that of twins- that the bond is something almost supernatural, and that to have a twin is almost like having two bodies sharing the one soul. So imagine the heartbreak you would feel if you were to lose that other part of you. It would be difficult enough to lose a sibling in tragic circumstances, but if that sibling shared the womb with you, then the anguish would be even more unbearable.

Such is the case for sixteen-year-old Giselle Boyer. She and her identical twin sister Isabelle are as close as can be, despite their differences in taste and friends. While Giselle is an artist, and prefers museum visits and drawing in a sketchbook, Isabelle creates art of a different kind- writing music and playing the flute in her school orchestra. Both girls are passionate about their pursuits, and hope to eventually form careers out of these loves. But a tragic incident is set to tear that dream apart.

One evening, while driving to the school concert where Isabelle is to perform, their car is rammed off the road. When Giselle comes to, she finds herself in a hospital room, hooked up to all sorts of machines. She has no idea what has happened, only that her body isn’t responding the way that it should be, and that her mother, father and beloved sister are nowhere in sight. Trapped within her own body, and with only her thoughts for company, Giselle ‘witnesses’ the goings on in her room, as other family members and medical staff mill about and do what they can to keep Giselle going. Through it all, she looks at the events leading up to the crash- the unbreakable bond she shares with Isabelle, her close friendship with her ‘other twin’ Tina, and her almost-relationship with Jean Michel. She also examines her close relationship with Aunt Leslie, the unexpected breakdown of her parents’ marriage and the comforting strength of having her Grandma Régine and Grandpa Marcus around to help out. As Giselle reminisces, she has to decide whether the love that surrounds her is enough to pull her through and back into wakefulness, or if she should surrender to sleep and remain deep within her longings and regrets…

This is a moving book which looks at various relationships and how they can have an effect on the life you live. Giselle’s life, up until the point of the crash, is relatively good. She has close friends, a loving family, and has not really experienced any hardship. In fact, compared to the lives of most teenagers in the books I have read, she leads an extremely charmed life. The only thing she really struggles with is the guilt of being fifteen minutes late, which ultimately makes her feel responsible for the crash, which she believes could have been avoided if she were on time. Even when some damning circumstances of the crash are revealed, she still struggles with this guilt, as well as with her sense of loss. While the storyline itself is sad, there is also a lot of hope and inspiration scattered throughout the novel. The characters all deal with the crash (and its repercussions) in their own ways- some better than others- but there is still a strong sense of solidarity and community involved. The insights into Giselle’s Haitian background are illuminating to someone who knows nothing of the culture, and the author shows plenty of skill when it comes to describing and explaining the Creole customs which are so familiar to Giselle and her family. This novel is an eye-opener, not just into the relationship between twins, but also the impact of a loving relationship, the importance of a close family unit and the benefits of a strong culture and community.


Rating: 3.5/5
Published: February 2016

#Fiction
#Young Adult
#Grief
#Twins
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