Monday, September 21, 2015


Title:  Untwine
Author:  Edwidge Danticat
Publication Information:  Scholastic Press. 2015. 320 pages.
ISBN:  0545423031 / 978-0545423038

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I remember what was playing when the car slammed into us."

Favorite Quote:  "Dear Future ... Please stun me. Astound me. Flabbergast me. Delight me. Amaze me. Astonish me!"

Parent's note:  Please note that the book listing suggests this for "ages 12 and up" and "grade 7 and up." The book deals with a violent, accidental death of a teenage girl and the complex emotions of a grieving family. As such, parents need to determine the appropriate age for their child to be reading the book. As an adult, read on!

Pure, unadulterated grief after a horrific tragedy - that is the sum total of the book. Giselle and Isabella are identical twins and as close as sisters can be. They are born holding hands. As they grow up, each finds her unique individuality and pursues her own unique talents. Yet, through it all, they remain close as twins and sisters do. In high school shortly before their seventeenth birthday, a horrible, terrible tragedy takes one from the other. Isabelle dies, and Giselle ends up in a coma.

Breath, Eyes, Memory, the first Edwidge Danticat book I read, tells its story in segments, stopping at crucial emotional points to pull the reader to another time and another place. As such, that book left me wanting more at each point. This book, on the other hand, launches you into the devastation of this accident and doesn't let go until the last page. It immerses you in Giselle's emotions through the accident, her physical recovery, and most importantly, her grief.

The story does leave some loose ends. Implied throughout is the idea that the crash may not have been an accident. Yet, the resolution of that is somewhat unsatisfying. It seems incomplete. Threaded throughout is also the author's (and hence the characters') Haitian heritage. It is present enough to be a feature of the story but not truly developed into a significant part. The book is not set in Haiti, and that background is not central to the story.

Ultimately, none of that matters. This is a story of grief and loss which transcends all explanations of why and transcends all geographic and cultural boundaries. From the time Giselle wakes up in the hospital, the reality of the accident assaults her. Her own injury. Her inability to communicate. Her family mistaking her for Isabelle. Her certainty of how and when Isabelle died. Through it all, reflections of their life before the accident pierce Giselle's memory, creating the image of the family that this accident destroys.

How do you bear a loss that is seemingly unbearable? The accident forever changes the entire Boyer family. For Giselle, the accident deprives her of a piece of herself. "I always imagined that if our fortunes were read, I would be half of Isabelle's future." After the accident, Giselle also becomes a constant reminder of what Isabelle could have - would have - been. "No one will ever forget Isabelle as long as I'm walking around with her body and her face. My sister is dead and I am her ghost." The writing, almost lyrical in nature, draws you into Giselle's grief so deeply and so intensely. At time, I see her grief at a distance, and at times, I am Giselle, feeling each moment.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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