Monday, March 16, 2009

Slow moving but filled with insights

I See You Everywhere
by Julia Glass

I've been laid up with an injury for several weeks, and I've been reading up a storm. I have been FLYING though the pages. Julia Glass's I See You Everywhere dragged me to a grinding stop. It must have taken me two weeks to read this short 300-page novel. I know that sounds bad, but on the contrary, I thought the novel was phenomenal. I'm not sure why it took me so long to read. What I can say is that the deeper into the novel I got, the more I liked it. And the longer the stretches of time that I devoted to reading, the more I liked it.

The novel is a character study of two sisters, Louisa and Clem(entine) Jardine, who are very different women. I See You Everywhere spans 25 years of their lives, starting when Louisa is a surly 24-year-old, and Clem is only 20. Their story is told episodically, beginning in 1980, and skipping ahead years (or sometimes only months). Through viewing their lives through these snapshot windows of time, you see how radically their lives change and how the women change--and how they stay the same. The maturation of each of these women rang so true to me. For the most part, the chapters alternated between the points of view of each sister. In the beginning, it was tricky figuring out which one was talking, and frankly, trying to remember which sister was which. But as I got to know these ladies, that was no longer a problem. Often times, one sister would recollect an event we experienced first-hand through the eyes of the other, and I always found these overlaps, or recollections of past events already depicted, especially interesting.

Each time we would check in with one of the characters, I'd await with interest the clues that would let me know where she was in her life. Does she live in the same city? Is she with the same man? Does she have the same job? The answer was usually "no." My life would be much the same if viewed every few years. It's easy to forget how much changes over time. This constant moving forward kept my interest up. While I wouldn't describe this as a plot-driven novel, at one point a development shocked me to the core. I yelled, "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!" alone in my apartment. While it was shocking, it was also believable. Take care what you read about this novel, so as not to ruin a considerable surprise.

I found myself reading the chapter titles carefully. They were so clever, and often had multiple meanings. When I finally realized the full significance of the novel's odd title, I just loved it.

I opened talking about how slowly I read this novel. Part of the reason may have been me just stopping to reflect on what I had read. Not so much the beauty of the sentences, but what struck me as some deeply truthful insights into the characters or into life in general. I have a feeling this novel will stick with me for a long time. I am one of two sisters. We really aren't very much like Clem and Louisa except that we are so unlike each other. I may have to share this book with her. So we can disagree about it.

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