March 14, 2013

Review: Her

By: Christa Parravani
Published: March 2013 by Henry Holt and Co.
Format: Hardback, 320 pages
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"I saw my sister when I tried to see myself."

Christa Parravani and her identical twin, Cara, were linked by a bond that went beyond siblinghood, beyond sisterhood, beyond friendship. Raised up from poverty by a determined single mother, the gifted and beautiful twins were able to create a private haven of splendor and merriment between themselves and then earn their way to a prestigious college and to careers as artists (a photographer and a writer, respectively) and to young marriages. But, haunted by childhood experiences with father figures and further damaged by being raped as a young adult, Cara veered off the path to robust work and life and in to depression, drugs and a shocking early death.

A few years after Cara was gone, Christa read that when an identical twin dies, regardless of the cause, 50 percent of the time the surviving twin dies within two years; and this shocking statistic rang true to her. "Flip a coin," she thought," those were my chances of survival." First, Christa fought to stop her sister's downward spiral; suddenly, she was struggling to keep herself alive.

Beautifully written, mesmerizingly rich and true, Christa Parravani's account of being left, one half of a whole, and of her desperate, ultimately triumphant struggle for survival is informative, heart-wrenching and unforgettably beautiful.

Rating: 5/5

Here's a fact about myself: I am identical twin. She passed away in an accident. The line I've quoted above is only one of the lines in this beautiful memoir that hit home for me. To read about someone else having the same feelings, dealing with the grieve of a twin in the same way just made me release breath I've been holding for years. I'm not alone.

I first learned about this book when Christa posted in a Twinless Twins Support Group and I knew I was going to read it the second I could get my hands on the book. I could never write a memoir about losing my sister, especially if my story was like Christa and Cara's. I have so much respect and gratitude toward Christa for writing this and for letting the world read it.

Christa takes us from childhood to the birth of her baby girl, entwining us in her and Cara's twinship. I absolutely loved reading about their relationship; it was like reliving my twinship with my own sister and I'm sure for those who aren't twins can really get a feel for a twin relationship by reading this. Both the positives and the negatives, the great and the not-so-great. What it's like to be so close to someone you don't know whose experiences/memories are whose and so much alike you fight every small detail to try and be different.

Putting in those details about this special bond really made it so heart-wrenching to read about the down-spiral of the beautiful Cara Parravani. I admire Christa for writing about the terrible things that happened to Cara, the terrible things Cara did to herself, and then the things Christa began to do before/after Cara passed away. Not only did Christa focus on her twinship, she also opened my eyes to what it's like when a loved one is raped and even more what it's like to watch someone you love so dearly lose themselves, and in Christa's case as an identical twin, kill her as well.

One of the most incredible lines in the book for me was when Cara said to Christa, "If you ever die, I'll kill myself," to which Christa replied, "If you ever die, I'll survive you." That made me go so numb. Christa told us of her battle between feeling as if Cara's addiction was killing her as well to sub-consciously knowing Cara was going to die. Seeing the grieving process, both for the addiction battle and death, through the eyes of a twin just took my breath away and made my heart weep.

This book is, indeed, beautiful. Originally, I thought I would have to read through it slowly; I figured it would be too emotionally difficult. But instead, I couldn't put it down. Alongside the terrible events were these messages of healing. Even if you're not a twin, I think you will find so much beauty in this story and find something to relate to. Whether it's your childhood family life or your relationship with a spouse, sibling, parent, or friend. It'll open your eyes to so much: what it's like to lose someone, what it's like to lose yourself, what it's like to have a loved one be raped and/or addicted. But most importantly, and if it's the only thing you take away from Christa and Cara's story, you'll learn that you can heal. You can live.

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