Michael Rockefeller’s twin sister describes his death and her healing.
In late 1961, Michael Rockefeller disappeared off the coast of New Guinea. Michael’s father, then Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, and his twin sister, Mary (now Morgan) Rockefeller, joined the search, but he was never found. Two years later, Michael was pronounced legally dead by drowning, but it took decades longer for Rockefeller to accept and grieve her twin’s death. In four roughly chronological parts of her memoir (a reprinted version of a 2012 title), Rockefeller recounts the stages of her “healing journey.” The first two parts, the most cohesive and compelling, describe the events after Michael’s disappearance: Rockefeller’s “numb detachment” from search efforts, her father’s new marriage and, perhaps most tellingly, her mother’s refusal to cry—or to let her cry—over their loss. In this stoic environment, “I closed the door on my grief,” she writes. As good memoirists should, Rockefeller steps beyond herself to raise larger issues: how the women’s movement of the ’60s and ’70s affected her isolation and healing; how psychologists dismissed the power of twinship; whether Rockefeller family dynamics accentuated, even defined, the author’s grief. The third section of the book departs from this style to focus on several days in 1988 when Rockefeller attended a wilderness healing retreat. The intense introspection of these chapters, which include long passages of Rockefeller’s dreams and visions, might frustrate readers intrigued by broader themes in the earlier chapters. Nonetheless, details about how meditation and days alone in nature helped her to finally, symbolically, lay Michael to rest may provide guidance to readers struggling with loss. In the final section, Rockefeller shifts back to more standard memoir style, albeit mixed with psychological theory. She explains the unique qualities of twin bonds and the workings of subconscious imagery, which she now uses in her psychotherapy practice for twinless twins. These last chapters bring welcome (if not perfect) resolution to the author’s journey—and add a touch of self-help for readers still finding their ways.
A bit fragmented but may interest twins or those curious about Michael Rockefeller.