Title: Her Fearful Symmetry
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Quick Review: 4 stars (out of 5)
Why I Read It: I joined the crowd and read the Time Traveler’s Wife, and enjoyed it. So I picked this up. I originally tried this as a digital book and just could not get into it. So when I saw it on the large print shelf I decided to try again (I don’t actually require large print, but I feel like a speed reader when I do read one). Anyway I am glad I did because I really like it once I got into it.
Where I Obtained the Book: Got it at my library.
Synopsis: Julia and Valentina Poole are twenty-year-old sisters with an intense attachment to each other. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. Their English aunt Elspeth Noblin has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions for this inheritance: that they live in the flat for a year before they sell it and that their parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the girls' aunt Elspeth and their mother, Edie.
The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders the vast Highgate Cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Stella Gibbons, and other luminaries are buried. Julia and Valentina become involved with their living neighbors: Martin, a composer of crossword puzzles who suffers from crippling OCD, and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. They also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including—perhaps—their aunt.
Review: I originally tried to listen to this book on digital recording and I just couldn’t get into it. But I enjoyed the author’s first book so much, The Time Travelers Wife, that I wanted to give it another chance. So I checked the book out and found that actually reading it I couldn’t put it down.
The sadness of the tale is found in the tragic lives lived in the desire to keep hidden mistakes and lies. And with most family secrets they are magnified beyond their actual importance, and the irony is they really weren’t very secret at the end of the day. Without giving too much away the heart of this tale is the consequences of one drunken mistake and its subsequent cover up. Everyone is too polite or afraid to openly deal with it and compound their sadness over the years. It is not until one of the participants dies does progress on the solution begins to take place. But unfortunately for the deceased her death does not release her and she is still stuck in the here and now, still needing to confront her mistakes.
The story is best summed up by the upstairs neighbor, a man stuck in his life by crippling OCD. So stuck that his wife moved on, but is there for him when he is ready to dig himself out. Enter the identical twin sisters who have stalled their own lives, living without motivation or ambition, but do act as a catalyst when it comes to the players to confront their various situations. I also liked to conclusion where it is made clear that a clean break and new start actually require you to leave things behind. That is a good lesson for all of us. FWIW, there is a lot of twin action going on in this book; so if you have twins in your life you just might enjoy it in an entirely different level.
Author Biography: Audrey Niffenegger (born June 13, 1963 in South Haven, Michigan) is an American writer and artist. She is also a professor in the Interdisciplinary Book Arts MFA Program at the Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts. Niffenegger's debut novel, The Time Traveler's Wife (2003), was a national bestseller.
New York Times