Two sisters navigate childhood and early adulthood together.
As a child, Lark craves routine, and since no one else provides it, every Wednesday she scrounges coins from the couch cushions to buy a pizza for herself, her little sister, Robin, and their young single mother. Soon she’s pretty much raising Robin herself. When Lark moves from their Montreal home to Massachusetts for college, Robin follows not long after. Quiet Lark studies film while Robin, the wilder of the pair, reveals herself as a piano prodigy. Ohlin’s (Signs and Wonders, 2012, etc.) latest novel follows Lark and Robin from childhood to adulthood. Lark is the narrator, and she’s a thoughtful, lucid guide. Still, the nature of the book, and the long time span it encompasses, results in a one-thing-after-another feel rather than a tightly woven story. Eventually the sisters move to New York, where Robin attends Juilliard. But then they have a kind of falling out, and Lark ends up cloistered in small-town Pennsylvania, working for an eccentric filmmaker, while Robin takes off traveling the world. The reasons for their falling out, while hinted at, are left ambiguous—frustrating, given how close they’d been before. Lark is a wonderfully developed character, well-nuanced, but the others—from Robin and their mother to Wheelock, the filmmaker—are more shadowy, even enigmatic. Ohlin’s prose is lovely, and she asks smart, complicated questions not only about family, but also about the nature of narrative itself—whether in literature or in film—about the difference between artifice and truth and the meaning of nostalgia. Certain elements of the novel could have been developed further, but, all in all, Ohlin’s latest is a lovely, deeply moving work.
A lyrical account of the lives of two women, their failures and hopes, and ultimately their quiet redemption.