In this haunting memoir, photographer Parravani deconstructs the intense bonds between identical twins, the trauma of her sister’s death and her battle against similar self-destruction.
Raised by a strong-willed mother, the twins, Christa and Cara, shared a magical, intense and creative world of their own making. Plagued by unstable and abusive father figures and poverty, they still managed to attend prestigious colleges, begin careers as artists and embark on marriages. But following a rape while out walking her dog, Parravani’s twin began a terrifying descent into drugs and self-destruction. A year after the rape, the author began to understand that her sister’s situation was serious enough to require a stay at an expensive rehab center. “I was under the impression, the diluted perspective of the desperate,” she writes, “that the more money we threw at the problem of Cara’s addiction and despair, the more likely it was that she’d recover.” Faced with the statistic that when one identical twin perishes, the surviving twin’s rate of dying within the next few years spikes, the author chronicles her battle to avoid her sister’s fate. Parravani’s marriage failed, and as her career as a photography professor at a small college faltered, she checked herself into a personality-disorder wing of a hospital. Delicately weaving lyrical language together with her sister’s journals, her mother’s correspondence and conversations with family members, Parravani’s mesmerizing narrative tapestry reveals the multiple facets inherent within their tangled, complex and loving relationship. “My reflection was her and it wasn’t her. I was myself but I was my sister. I was hallucinating Cara—this isn’t a metaphor,” writes the author, who stepped back from the brink and began life anew with her second husband, the writer Anthony Swofford.
Parravani delicately probes the fragile, intimate boundaries among love, identity and loss.