Mirrored Images

20131230-105242.jpgWhat is like to have your identical twin die? You would see her in the mirror everyday. Growing up, I remember there was a pair of twins in a dance class and I envied how close they were to each other. They had been best friends since the womb. The idea of watching your twin suffer from trauma that would later lead to drug abuse and suicide seems impossible to overcome, especially if you believe those assumptions that twins can feel when the other is in pain.

Christa Parravani wrote the memoir Her about her twin sister and ultimately, herself. Spanning from their childhood fraught with divorced parents and abusive stepfathers, the sisters relied on each other to survive and pull through. While both girls forged their own paths as adults (one studying creative writing while the other studied photography), they still led mirrored lives. Then, the author’s sister suffers a terrible rape, one that permanently makes the sisters differ and divide.

The amount of hardship the girls go through can feel overwhelming at times, but the writing and the situations portray the mental instability so well. It’s honest and raw in that way. Parravani has a writing style that pulls me in immediately and keeps me absorbed in her story until the last page. I could feel her writing out the pain in losing her twin. The timeline does not always seem chronological, but it doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t confuse the reader. Instead, we are carried off into memories of one twin who had to survive the other. In a way, it reminded me of the crippling grief Cheryl Strayed endured after the passing of her mother in Wild, an uncontrollable sadness that leaves the survivor unable to bear living without the deceased. Memoirs like Her help us to understand how the survivor does just that–survives.