Jess Walton witnesses life, death and seemingly magical events in this slow-moving novel that’s light on plot but heavy with philosophy.
After her great-aunt Edie dies, Jess inherits a bureau full of secrets. Though Jess had hoped for Edie’s piano so she could lose herself in music, when she discovers a glass flask hidden in the bureau, she takes it as an omen for her new baby brothers’ birth. Clem and Richie are conjoined twins, and Jess believes that the flask holds a spirit that will allow her to control the boys’ fates. With her mother and stepfather at the hospital, her grandmother mourning Edie’s death and her irritatingly exuberant friend Zoe preoccupied by a boy, Jess drifts through the stages of grief—both for Edie and, prematurely, for her newborn brothers. Jess’ behavior and experiences vacillate between magical realism and delusion, leaving the nature of the flask up to readers to determine. Just as Jess seeks meaning in coincidences, the novel strains to connect an intimate and specific situation with grand meditations on life, death, friendship and divine power. Rather than exploiting the conjoined twins for shock value, Singer goes to the opposite extreme, making them miraculous symbols of the interconnectedness of life.
More cathartic than captivating, a thoughtful piece about birth, death and everything in between. (Fiction. 10-14)