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IDENTICAL STRANGERS by Elyse Schein

IDENTICAL STRANGERS

A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited

By Elyse Schein (Author) , Paula Bernstein (Author)

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6496-0
Publisher: Random House

Intriguing but clunky account of twins who found each other in midlife.

In 1969, two families in New York each adopted a baby girl who had been given up by a mentally ill birth mother. Neither the adoptive parents nor the girls themselves knew about the existence of a twin. More than three decades later, the younger sister, Schein, petitioned the adoption agency for information about her birth mother and learned about her twin. She quickly tracked down Bernstein, a married mom who led a calm, settled life and sometimes felt that her aimless, single sister wanted too much from her. Their attempt to forge an adult relationship was initially fraught, but eventually the two women settled into a comfortable friendship and determined to find out who their mother was and why they were separated. The most interesting sections of their joint memoir chronicle their detective work. It turned out that Schein and Bernstein were unwitting subjects in a very controversial study of twins reared in different homes. Trying to understand the study’s ethics and aims, the sisters traveled to numerous archives, tracked down the nonagenarian doctor who spearheaded the project and talked to other separated twins. Their book probes the nature-nurture debate and considers whether the findings of a study that lacked participants’ informed consent ought to be made public. Unfortunately, stilted prose sucks the life out of this promising material. Lacking individual character, Schein’s and Bernstein’s alternating first-person sections have the same trite, melodramatic voice, given to statements like, “I mourn for the abandoned orphan I once was.” The dialogue is especially unconvincing: “I realize now that yours is the heartbeat I’ve always missed,” Schein tells her sister.

Looking for a riveting reunited twin tale? Stick with The Parent Trap.