Kroll’s debut novella offers a collection of vignettes about the bond between twins growing up in the late 1960s.
The story is framed as a series of reminiscences by Susie and Pete, fraternal twins spending Christmas at home in the present day. The only family member missing is their brother, Russell, which reminds Pete, the narrator of these tales, of the last Christmas that Russell missed, way back in 1969. Each chapter describes a game that Susie and Pete played in their youth, and how it affected their familial bond. Susie was the more popular of the twins—bold, brash, daring, and overwhelmingly kind—while Pete was more cautious, always getting Susie out of trouble. Nearly every chapter ends with a reaffirmation of Pete’s love for Susie. Supporting characters, such as Danny, a blind boy from the neighborhood whom Susie and Pete befriended, and Heidi, a German immigrant who moved in across the street, make nice counterparts to the twins. Chapters focusing on the twins’ letters to Russell, who was serving in Vietnam at the time, hit the right emotional notes and give the mostly breezy stories some depth. Kroll’s prose style is simple and colloquial, and he successfully re-creates the sincerity and naïveté of young children. A scene in which the twins pretend to fly to the moon and meet Neil Armstrong is particularly effective in this way; although it’s just a game, the feelings that the kids experience are very real. Other chapters, though, strain to extract lessons from the twins’ games, and wrap things up too quickly. The end of the story, as it returns to present day, similarly and neatly ties up all the loose ends. This doesn’t dampen the reading experience, however; overall, it’s a fun way for people who came of age in the ’60s to see a glimpse of their own childhood.
An enjoyable, earnest look at growing up.