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Double Stitch

Double Stitch

by John Rolfe Gardiner

Editorial Reviews

O! Magazine
At once mysterious and plausible, Double Stitch compels us to consider the question of what it means to take responsibility for who we are.
Francine Prose,
The Washington Post
The success of Double Stitch is that it addresses with sympathy and intelligence the risks and rewards of self-invention not just for identical twins but also for anyone who has ever lived and loved. — Carrie Brown
Publishers Weekly
Gardiner's subtly powerful writing deserves a wider audience, but his latest book fails to live up to his earlier achievements. While In the Heart of the Whole World and the well-received Somewhere in France were crisply written explorations of characters haunted by their obsessions, his fifth novel, about mixed-race twins growing up in an orphanage in the 1920s and '30s, has fewer flashes of grace. At age 10, Rebecca and Linda arrive at the Drayton Orphanage outside Philadelphia. With their odd beauty (faintly olive skin, hair "blond as a corn tassel") and troubling bond ("Sometimes I can't remember which one of us is me," one says), they quickly cast a spell over orphanage director Eula Keiland. The twins also attract the attention of Otto Rank (real-life psychoanalyst, a disciple and later critic of Freud), one of the novel's several historical figures. Otto believes that everyone has an internalized double, but in the twins' case, "nature has provided the double" and there is "no need for the subconscious to produce another." He's also certain that the twins will destroy each other, as the mythical Greek twins Lezzor and Tripto did. The twins' race plays a crucial role, and all of these elements promise something spellbinding. But while sometimes effective, the novel disappoints. The twins endure two separate, harrowing journeys (one to California, the other to China), but Gardiner relates these events flatly, and the idea of the "double" is tirelessly debated-by Eula, Otto and their associates-giving the metaphor-heavy novel a static, leaden feel. Author tour. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Gardiner's latest (after Somewhere in France) centers on a mixed-race pair of twins who arrive at the Drayton Orphanage in 1926. Becca and Linny, blond and strange, are indistinguishable and inseparable to the point of neurosis. Their case intrigues Eula Kielend, the progressive director, who harbors a secret wish to adopt the enigmatic girls. She corresponds regularly with real-life psychotherapist Otto Rank, ostensibly to discuss the twins' pathology. Rank believes the girls' "instinct to reduce themselves to one" and "relentless intimacy" make them "a danger to each other." He also reveals Eula to be a repressed and divided soul-reformer/career woman, longing for intimacy and motherhood. At graduation, Eula's schemes to separate the sisters prove disastrous, as each faces abuse and peril and must come to terms with her own racial and personal identity. This slow-going, social-historical novel will probably not appeal to the masses, although guest appearances by Anais Nin (who was Rank's lover) add color. For large fiction collections or academic libraries.-Christine Perkins, Burlington P.L., WA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Prison or sanctuary? That's just one of the thorny relationship questions facing a pair of identical twins. When Eula Kieland, director of the progressive Drayton Orphanage in Pennsylvania, accepts Becca and Linny Carey in 1926, she knows she's bending the rules. (Both Eula and Drayton have real-life prototypes.) The charter stipulates white girls, and the twins have a black grandmother; but Eula is captivated by them, despite their secret world (they have their own vocabulary) and constant identity-fooling. Their tricks decrease as they settle in, and different racial identities emerge in a fight over an admirer, as Becca turns ultra-black, Linny ultra-white (their grandmother, who shows up later, has an unfortunate "polka-dot" pigmentation). Is all this a full plate? Not for Gardiner (Somewhere in France, 1999, etc.), keen to explore the double in all of us, but especially in Eula, who lies on the couch for two other real-life figures, the breakaway Freudian Otto Rank and the diarist Anaïs Nin. A third preoccupation is a history of the orphanage itself. These competing interests slow the narrative, for all the thrillingly melodramatic adventures of the twins, together though apart, after graduation. Becca wins a scholarship to Peiping, while Linny hops a freight to San Francisco. Different countries, same experiences: locked rooms and sexual exploitation. Linny escapes from a commune/whorehouse to return to Drayton, but Becca is caught up in political intrigue and unwittingly betrays a host of Chinese students; she will be raped by a ferryboat captain before her eventual rescue. Relative calm reigns after the twins' reunion at Drayton, where Linny is now a sewing mistress, despite anepisode between them of life-threatening violence (possibly an inherent inevitably with identical twins, warned Rank). By the end, Linny is a successful designer, living with Becca in the Philadelphia ghetto. Provocative and elegantly written, but overly didactic. For all the talk, Eula never does confront her other self, and the twins never clear the hurdle of dating and marriage. Agent: Wendy Weil

Product Details

Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.36(h) x 1.14(d)

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