I See You Everywhere

( 34 )

Overview

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Year

Julia Glass, the bestselling, National Book Award-winning author of Three Junes, returns with a tender, riveting book of two sisters and their complicated relationship.

Louisa Jardine is the older one, the conscientious student, precise and careful: the one who yearns for a good marriage, an artistic ...

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Overview

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Year

Julia Glass, the bestselling, National Book Award-winning author of Three Junes, returns with a tender, riveting book of two sisters and their complicated relationship.

Louisa Jardine is the older one, the conscientious student, precise and careful: the one who yearns for a good marriage, an artistic career, a family. Clem, the archetypal youngest, is the rebel: committed to her work saving animals, but not to the men who fall for her. In this vivid, heartrending story of what we can and cannot do for those we love, the sisters grow closer as they move further apart. All told with sensual detail and deft characterization, I See You Everywhere is a candid story of life and death, companionship and sorrow, and the nature of sisterhood itself.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Rich, intricate and alive with emotion.... An honest portrait of sister-love and sister-hate-interlocking, brave and forgiving-made whole through art.” —The New York Times Book Review “Glass writes the sort of novels that you wish would go on forever.... I See You Everywhere is a lovely and heartbreaking book, and it ends far too soon.” —The Miami Herald “Nowhere are the ebbs and flows, the complex and often ugly nuances, the bonds and the breaks between sisters more achingly or more piercingly explored.” —USA Today “So heartbreakingly luminous that you'd swear Glass had access to your own most secret thoughts.” —Redbook “Extraordinarily good.... Unusually rich and complex.” —The Boston Globe “One doesn't read so much as sink into a Julia Glass novel.... A haunting dissection of human fragility.” —People “Glass is Edith Wharton for the twenty-first century.... Wharton wrote more than forty-eight books in her lifetime. American literature could use a few more from Glass.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “Sheer pleasure for readers who love stories about complicated family relationships.” —San Francisco Chronicle
Liesl Schillinger
Mourning, a dish that never grows cold, is the subtext of I See You Everywhere, but it is only part of the feast. Rich, intricate and alive with emotion, the book reconstructs the complicated bonds between Louisa and Clem, making neither sister a villain, neither a hero…In this novel, Glass has used the edges and color blocks of her own life to build an honest portrait of sister-love and sister-hate—interlocking, brave and forgiving—made whole through art, despite missing pieces in life.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Glass's tale of two sisters, one who wants nothing but the best in life, the other who lives on the edge, is a refreshing look at the bonds of sisterhood. Connected no matter how great the distance between them, the sisters' relationship is analyzed in dramatic detail. Mary Stuart Masterson offers a compelling reading, at once genuine and theatrical. She reads as if she were giving an intimate soliloquy, yet sounds as if she were relating events from her own life. Glass reads the less showy role of the good sister and that, combined with Masterson working at the top of her game, produces fewer sparks in this honest and candid look at the human condition. A Pantheon hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 4).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

National Book Award® winner Glass (Three Junes) tells here of sisters Clem and Louisa, whose differing interpretations of each others' lives, loves, and losses are masterfully conveyed through the narration, voiced alternately by the author and actress Mary Stuart Masterson. These two accomplished readers make the sisters' varying experiences and memories sound like a conversation at the kitchen table. Recommended for public and academic libraries. [Audio clips available through library.booksontape.comand www.randomhouse.com/audio; the review of the Pantheon hc advised that "public libraries...buy on demand," LJ8/08.-Ed.]
—Beth Traylor

Kirkus Reviews
The comforting and alienating effects of family closeness are portrayed with appealing warmth and wit in the third novel from the Massachusetts author (The Whole World Over, 2006, etc.). It's a tale of two sisters: city mouse Louisa Jardine, who shapes a career and an erratic love life out of her experience in New York City's art world, and her younger sibling Clement, an ever-itinerant wildlife biologist committed only to "a wild and freewheeling life, a life of pick up and go." In juxtaposed chapters narrated by both women, we're privy to their mutually loving and dependent, and frequently combative, relationship over a 25-year period that begins when Louisa comes home to Vermont following the death of their nearly centenarian great-aunt Lucy, a free spirit whose intelligent independence has been a touchstone for both "Clem's" adventurous peregrinations and Louisa's vacillating movements toward and away from marriage and motherhood. Their mother May, a wealthy horsewoman and breeder of dogs who also manages her passive husband and influences her daughters more than they'll admit, provides the fulcrum that keeps bringing the sisters together even when they appear to have become irreparably estranged. Glass shares Anne Tyler's gift for comic plotting as a means to reveal character under stress, but a graver note is struck by her understanding of Louisa's frustrating, enervating mood swings. The arc of the novel in fact isn't comic, and its elegiac denouement and conclusion are immensely moving. There are arguably too many echoes of the patterns and emphases of Glass's NBA-winning Three Junes, but this novel digs deeper-particularly in its rich characterization of the mercurial Clem. She'sas sentient and soulful as she is wayward and irritating, and we understand why men are drawn to her flame, then burn up in the intensity of her embracing orbit. Not a great novel, but a good one, and a promising extension of Glass's already impressive range.
The Barnes & Noble Review
The story of Clem and Louisa Jardine, the mismatched sisters at the heart of Julia Glass's intricate third novel, I See You Everywhere, covers 25 years. It takes just a few pages, though, to get the lay of the land. We meet Louisa, the careful and conscientious older sister, as she's headed to Vermont in 1980 to claim a share of her great-aunt's jewelry. Living unhappily in Santa Barbara, where she's been dumped by a boyfriend and has failed to make good as a potter, Louisa can ill afford the trip. But the thought that her sister could claim the best of the booty spurs her on. Clem, after all, younger by four years, is their mother's favorite. She's a free spirit whose fearless forward rush through life has always made Louisa feel upstaged. No way Clem's getting the best of Louisa this time.

Except she does. Louisa's barely made a dent in her narrative when Clem chimes in. "If you're going to hear Louisa's version of what went on last summer, you will also be hearing mine. Louisa's worst side is the one I call the Judge. ? la Salem witchcraft trials. There's this look she gets on her face that tells the world and everyone in it how completely unworthy it and they are to contain or witness her presence."

And so we're off, Clem and Louisa taking turns revealing the shape and texture and relentless tension of their relationship. Though Clem's assessment of Louisa sounds harsh, it's hard not to agree with her. The rivalry between the sisters is mostly one-sided, and Glass does little to sugarcoat Louisa's prickly nature. Here's Louisa in the airplane, fending off the pain of her failed life in California: "...but I had no intention of letting Clem in on my angst. My plan was to never trust her again, never fall for her charms the way everyone else, especially men, seemed to do so ferverently."

If you've read Glass's earlier novel Three Junes, the landscape of I See You Everywhere will be familiar. There's the dog-obsessed mother, the absentminded father, the world of art and money and Ivy League schools. Much of it is drawn from the author's own life. Glass, a Yale grad and art student, turned to writing after cancer, divorce, and a sudden death in the family turned her 30s into a series of catastrophes. The structure's like an old friend. Glass skips through time, a few years here, a few months there. She plays with the form, the novel often hovering on the brink of becoming a series of linked short stories.

Clem and Louisa couldn't be more different. Clem's charismatic, the kind of woman that people -- especially men, as Louisa so sourly notes -- want to be around. She's also one of the lucky ones whose earliest passion ("Saving animals is all I've ever wanted to do") becomes her career. A wildlife biologist who works to protect endangered species, Clem travels the world with ease and relish.

Louisa, meanwhile, stumbles upon herlife work without much fanfare. After failing as a potter, she turns to writing about art to pay the bills. Freelance assignments lead to staff positions. Writing leads to editing. Before you know it, Louisa's found her niche, a solid if not joyful fit. Also not joyful are Louisa's relationships with men. Clem attracts multitudes, each one a possible soul mate. Louisa, we learn, dates and marries the wrong guys.

What's odd, though, given Glass's skill as a writer, is how similar the voices of Clem and Louisa sound. Dive into the book at random and you're hard-pressed to tell, until some specific detail clues you in, who's speaking. Skipping through time is also a challenge. The book starts in 1980 and ends in 2005. In order to tell each new story, Glass lays on the back-story. The man who absconds with the family's valuable hunting dogs must be explained. He heads from the East Coast to Carmel, where his rich mother lives, which means his family must be explained. Just as you adjust to each new scenario and sink back into the story, the scene ends and you're uprooted again. The first few times, it's actually pretty interesting. By mid-book, however, you're tired. By then, Clem and Louisa are all we care about; they're the ones we're really interested in, and all that time-travel robs us of them.

Here's Clem, thinking about her aunt, but giving voice to what's wonderful and also frustrating about Glass's book: "...I believe she was swept along on a tide, like most of us. There you are, diligently swimming a straight line, minding the form of your strokes, when you look up and see, always a shock, that currents you can't even feel have pulled you off course."

Off course, yes, but Glass is skilled enough that she's still on target. It's near the end of I See You Everywhere that this is truly clear. A tragedy, the specifics of which would spoil the story, rivets the entire family. Parents, family, friends, and co-workers grope for balance. So do we. Suddenly, everything that came before has new meaning. Incidental details turn out to have been important incidents. What seemed like accident was actually art, and Glass pulled it all off without our even realizing her artistry. --Veronique de Turenne

Veronique de Turenne is a Los Angeles-based journalist, essayist and playwright. Her literary criticism appears on NPR and in major American newspapers. One of the highlights of her career was interviewing Vin Scully in his broadcast booth at Dodger Stadium, then receiving a handwritten thank-you note from him a few days later.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400075775
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/14/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 231,794
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Julia Glass

Julia Glass is the author of Three Junes, which won the National Book Award for Fiction, and The Whole World Over. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Her short fiction has won several prizes, including the Tobias Wolff Award and the Pirate's Alley Faulkner Society Medal for the Best Novella. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.

Biography

After graduating from Yale with a degree in art, Julia Glass received a fellowship to study figurative painting in Paris. Upon her return, she moved to New York, where she became involved in the city's vibrant art scene, worked as a copy editor, and wrote the occasional magazine column. She had always been a good writer, but her energies were initially focused on an art career. Finally, the pull to write became too strong. Glass put down her paint brush and picked up her pen

One of her earliest short stories, never published, was a semi-autobiographical piece called "Souvenirs." Loosely based on her experiences as a student traveling in Greece, the story was (by Glass's own admission) pretty formulaic. Yet, she found herself returning to it over the years, haunted by the faint memory of someone she had met on that trip: an older man whose wife had recently died.

Then, during the early 1990s, Glass experienced some serious setbacks in her life: Within the space of a few years, her marriage ended in divorce, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and her beloved younger sister -- a dynamic woman with a seemingly wonderful life -- committed suicide. Devastated by her sister's death, Glass turned to writing as a way of working through her grief and loss. Suddenly, the memory of the sad widower in Greece took on a melancholy resonance. She retrieved "Souvenirs" from her desk drawer for one final rewrite, expanded it to novella length, and spun it from a different point of view. Renamed "Collies," the story won the Pirate's Alley Faulkner Society Medal in 1999. It also became the first section of Glass's remarkable 2002 debut novel, the National Book Award winner Three Junes.

After a spate of "postmodern" bestsellers, Three Junes was like a breath of fresh air, harkening back to an era of more straightforward, gimmick-free writing. Spanning a period of ten years (1989-1999), the novel covers three disparate, event-filled months in the lives of a well-to-do Scottish family named McLeod, weaving a cast of colorful, interconnected characters into a tapestry of contemporary social mores that would do Glass's 19th-century role model George Eliot proud.

The same dazzling sprawl that distinguished her acclaimed debut has characterized Glass's subsequent efforts -- rich, dense narratives that unfold from multiple points of view and illuminate the full, complicated spectrum of relationships (among parents and children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, friends and lovers). In an interview with NPR, she explained her penchant for ensemble casts and panoramic multidimensional stories: "I see life as increasingly complex, vivid, colorful, crazy, chaotic. That's the world I write about...the world I live in."

Good To Know

Glass's first published writing was a regular column on pets called "Animal Love" that ran in Glamour magazine for two years in the late eighties. Says Glass, "I grew up in a home where animals were ever-present and often dominated our lives. There were always horses, dogs, and cats, as well as a revolving infirmary of injured wildlife being nursed by my sister the aspiring vet. Without any conscious intention on my part, animals come to play a significant role in my fiction: in Three Junes, a parrot and a pack of collies; in The Whole World Over, a bulldog named The Bruce. To dog lovers, by the way, I recommend My Dog Tulip by J. R. Ackerley -- by far the best 'animal book' I've ever read."

She is an avid rug-hooker in her free time. She explains that "unlike the more restrictive needlepoint, this medium permits me to work with yarn in a fluid, painterly fashion." Several of her rugs were reproduced in a book called Punch Needle Rug Hooking, by Amy Oxford (Schiffer Books).

Glass considers herself a "confirmed, unrepentant late bloomer." She explains, "I talked late, swam late, did not learn to ride a bike until college -- and might never have walked or learned to drive a car if my parents hadn't overruled my lack of motivation and virtually forced me to embrace both forms of transportation. I suspect I was happy to sit in a corner with a book. Though I didn't quite plan it that way, I had my two sons at just about the same ages my mother saw me and my sister off to college, and my first novel was published when I was 46. This 'tardiness' isn't something I'm proud of, but I'm happy to be an inspiration to others who arrive at these milestones later than most of us do."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Julie Glass
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 23, 1956
    2. Place of Birth:
      Boston, Massachusetts
    1. Education:
      B.A., Yale College, 1978; Scholar of the House in Art, Summa Cum Laude, 1978

Read an Excerpt

Swim to the Middle

1980

I avoid reunions. I’m not a rebel, a recluse, or a sociopath, and I’m too young to qualify as a crank, even if it’s true that I just spent the evening of my twenty-fifth birthday not carousing with friends or drinking champagne at a candlelit table for two but resolutely alone and working, glazing a large ovoid porcelain bowl while listening to Ella Fitzgerald sing songs by the Gershwin brothers. (A crank could never love Gershwin.) My one real boyfriend in college, just before we broke up, told me I’m nostalgic to a fault. He professed contempt for what he called “the delusional sound track to our parents’ deluded lives.” He informed me that you can’t be nostalgic for things that had their heyday before you were so much as born. Just about any member of my family would have laughed him out the door and down the garden path.

Family reunions are the worst—all that competition disguised as fellowship—and they’re also the hardest to avoid. But when my father’s Great-Aunt Lucy died last summer, there was an inheritance at stake, a collection of antique jewelry. Not the glossy priceless stuff—no diamonds, tiaras, or niagaras of pearls. Not things you’d sell but things so deliciously old-fashioned and stylish that to wear them makes you feel like a character from a Jane Austen novel or a Chekhov play. The one piece I remembered most vividly was a cameo, two inches square, ivory on steel-blue Pacific coral, a woman’s face inclined toward her hand, in her slender fingers an iris. Aunt Lucy had worn that cameo day and night, winter and summer, on lace and wool. Maybe she’d left us a charm bracelet, maybe earrings of garnet or Mexican silver, but mostly I wondered about that cameo. And wanted it. I’d wanted it since I was a little girl. One of my earliest memories is of sitting on Lucy’s lap, squirming to find a comfortable spot on her bony thighs yet happy to feel her kind honeyed voice in my hair as she talked with the other grown-ups gathered on her porch. She did not object to my poking and fingering the cameo, probing its fragile details: the woman’s eyelids and earlobes, the cuticles of her nails, the harmoniously wandering tendrils of her hair. She let me borrow it once, for a family dinner at a country inn.

Because Lucy never had children, not even a husband, my father long ago became the one who kept an eye on her in the last decades of her very long life. Geographically, he was the closest family member by far; out of a large, tenaciously Confederate clan, they were the only two living anywhere you can count on snow. Once Dad decided to stay north, after earning two degrees at Harvard, the family lumped him together with Lucy: “How are the defectas faring up yonda?” a cousin might ask Dad at a wedding in Memphis or Charleston. Happily, their proximity blossomed into genuine affection.

So Dad was the executor of Lucy’s will, which emerged from her bureau drawer along with a letter to my father that she’d written a year before she died. It began, To my splendid grandnephew Beauchance: Before I take my irreversible leave (which I suppose I will now have taken, strange to think), I am seizing this lucid moment to write down a few matters pertaining to the house and my ragbag possessions therein. I have little doubt that I shall have left the house in a rather sorry state, for which I apologize. Be charitable, if you can, to any bats or raccoons which may have colonized the attic or basement (though none to my knowledge have done so), and please take Sonny’s word on any tasks for which he claims I still owe him payment; our mutual accounting has grown slack if not capricious. . . .

Over the phone, Dad read me the letter in its crisp yet meandering entirety, stopping now and then to chuckle. I heard no tears in his voice until the end, where she wrote, Whatever modest adornments pass for jewelry, I leave to your daughters, Louisa and Clement. I did not become as intimately acquainted with them as I would have liked, but I did know the satisfaction, one summer to the next, of seeing how they grew; as I wish I had seen you evolve in your youth. I wish I had known much sooner, Beau, that you would become the facsimile of a perfect son, a gift whose pleasures I wish I had been blessed to know firsthand.

His voice cracked on the word gift, as if he didn’t deserve such gratitude, my father who will do just about anything for anyone, driving my mother crazy with all the favors he does for everyone else (including, as she likes to say, any random citizen of Outer Slobovia and its most godforsaken suburbs).

I decided to fly across the entire country because I couldn’t bear the thought that if I didn’t show up in person, my sister might inherit everything—including that cameo—by default. On the plane, I tried to decide which of two equally vulgar motives, materialism or spite, had compelled me to buy a ticket I couldn’t afford to a place where I’d see no one I wanted to see. My life was not, as people like to say, in a good place—though, ironically, the place where I lived at the time happened to be Santa Barbara. So I made excuses and timed my visit to avoid the masses of cousins, aunts, and uncles who would descend on Lucy’s house to grope the heirlooms by day and drink too much bourbon by night. I may share their Huguenot blood, but not their bad taste in booze and their glutinous drawl. I will never forget how, when our grandmother died two years ago, the family marauded her New Orleans house with no more respect than the Union soldiers who stripped us all bare a century back. You’d think, with all our costly educations, the reconstructed Jardines would avoid civil wars. Well, ha. There was an ugly brawl, which featured weeping and a smashed lamp, over the Steinway grand. Someone with Solomonic intentions actually went so far as to crank up a chainsaw. I could not deal with that type of gathering all over again. Whether I could deal with Clem remained to be seen.

My sister had been living with Aunt Lucy for what proved to be her final summer. After Lucy’s death, Clem stayed on while the relatives passed through, finishing up her summer jobs before heading back to college for her junior year. During the days, Clem worked in a bike shop and volunteered at a sanctuary for recovering raptors: birds, she’d explained when I called, that had been shot, struck by small planes, tortured by teenage boys. In the evenings, she kept an eye on Lucy—until her sudden death at the beginning of August. Not that our aunt was infirm, incontinent, or witless, but for the last several months of her life she was afflicted with an obstinate restlessness that sent her out after dark on urgent eccentric missions. Winooski, Vermont, is a snug, friendly place, so she wasn’t likely to be mugged or abducted. Nevertheless, reasoned Dad, who could say she wouldn’t do something drastic like sell her last shares of Monsanto and Kodak, head for the airport, and unintentionally vanish?

I’d hardly spoken to Clem since moving out west two years before. After college, in pursuit of a man I’d prefer to jettison from memory, I hauled my pottery wheel, my heart, and my disastrously poor judgment from Providence to California. It was completely unlike me to do anything so rash; maybe, subconsciously, I was trying to get back at Clem by pretending to be Clem, to annoy her by stealing her role as devil-may-care adventuress. Whatever the reason for my tempestuous act, it backfired. Three weeks after I signed a lease and bought a secondhand kiln, the boyfriend shed me like a stifling, scratchy-collared coat. To keep up with the rent I’d fooled myself into thinking he would share, I gave up my car. After that, I sold a pitcher here, a platter there, but to stave off eviction I wrote articles for a magazine that told workaholic doctors what to do with their leisure time. In college, I’d been just as good with words as I was with clay, and one of my Brit-lit classmates had started this odd publication. People had laughed, but subscriptions to Doc’s Holiday sold like deodorant soap.

Thus did I hold starvation at bay, but I also felt like the work kept me stuck in a place where I ought to love living but didn’t. Everything out there unnerved me: the punk shadows of palm trees slashing the lawns, the sun setting—not rising—over the ocean, the solitude of the sidewalks as I rushed everywhere on foot, carless and stared at. My inner compass refused to budge. North! it kept urging me. East! I’d just come to the conclusion that I didn’t belong there and never would, and I was feeling uncomfortable in my work, both kinds, but I had no intention of letting Clem in on my angst. My plan was never to trust her again, never to fall for her charms the way everyone else, especially men, seemed to do so fervently. And to snare that cameo. Maybe a string of pearls. Oh, Glenn Miller. I love him, too. What’s life without a little delusion?

If you’re to hear Louisa’s version of what went on last summer, you will also be hearing mine. Louisa’s worst side is the one I call the Judge. À la Salem witchcraft trials. There’s this look she gets on her face that tells the world and everyone in it how completely unworthy it and they are to contain or witness her presence. Beware! says that look. The Spanish Inquisition was Entenmann’s Danish!

Her new life in Santa Ladeedabra did not seem to have mellowed her out one iota, because when I pulled up at the airport, that’s the look she was wearing, firm as a church hat, beaming her world-weary scorn clear across the state of Vermont. I was late, okay, which didn’t help. It didn’t help either, I know, that it was me picking her up.

I wonder sometimes what kind of sisters we’ll be when we’re ancient (if we ever are). Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine: before that visit, you’d have bet the hacienda we’d end up like them. Cold? Suspicious? Resentful? Ever notice how sisters, when they aren’t best friends, make particularly vicious enemies? Like, they could be enemies from the time they lay their beady little eyes on each other, maybe because their mother makes them rivals or maybe because there’s not enough love to go around and—not out of greed but from the gut, like two hawks zeroing in on a wren—they have no choice but to race for it. (Laws of nature, pure and simple. Be vigilant and survive. Altruism? A myth. Share? Oh please. Whatever it is that feeds the hunger, dive-bomb first, philosophize later.) Or maybe they grow apart in a more conscious way, maybe because their marriages clash: the guys they choose see each other as losers or sellouts; the women are helplessly loyal. But that’s not our story. No husbands yet, not even a hint of husband.

I’ve always been the favorite—our mother’s, at least. Partly, it’s the animal thing: Mom grew up on a storybook farm where animals ruled life more strictly than clocks. And I happen to be the one who set my sights that way. Saving animals is all I’ve ever wanted to do. In fourth grade, I asked Mom to give me all her shoe boxes. A hospital: that was the plan. I cut windows in the ends of the boxes and stacked them in the bottom of my closet like high-rise condos. My first baby bird got the penthouse. Next day, he was dead. They almost always die, I’d learn. But that didn’t stop me. “You’re my daughter, all right,” said Mom when she saw what I’d built (though her tone made me wonder if the likeness was such a good thing).

Louisa thinks this makes my life easy—being the favorite. She doesn’t realize that once you’re the disappointment, or once you’ve chosen a path seen as odd or unchoosable, your struggle is over, right? On the other side of the fence—mine—every expectation you fulfill (or look like you might, on purpose or not) puts you one step higher and closer to that Grand Canyon rim from which you could one day rule the world—or plummet in very grand style.

In the car, I let Clem do the talking. She was late to pick me up, and I was glad: it gave me a reason to sulk until I could get my bearings. I was glad to be back in New England, but I was cross-eyed with fatigue. I cannot sleep on planes. So Clem filled me in on the reading of the will and what she called the Great Divide: relatives clutching lists, drawing lots, swarming the house like fire ants. But this time there were no dogfights; everyone, said Clem, remembered the piano brawl.

I hadn’t seen the place in five years, and when we arrived, I just stood on the walk and stared. It’s a Victorian, more aspiring than grand, and it had always looked a little anemic, but now it was a wreck. The sallow paint, formerly white, hung off the clapboards in broad curling tongues, and the blue porch ceiling bore the crusty look of a cave complete with stalactites. The flagstones were fringed with moss. The front steps sagged. That the lawn had just been mowed made the house look even more derelict. “How could Dad let her live this way?” I asked.

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Reading Group Guide

1. I See You Everywhere focuses on the relationship of Louisa and Clement Jardine. Describe each sister's character. How are they like and unlike each other—also, like and unlike their parents? What do their attitudes toward work, love, and family have in common? How do they differ?

2. Especially at the beginning, Louisa's sense of her own identity depends largely on her relationship to art-her pottery and writing; later on, her work with other artists as an editor and a gallery director. What does this say about Louisa? In “Coat of Many Colors,” why does Esteban's knitting speak so deeply to her? And later, in “The World We Made,” what does Clem and Louisa's conversation about Eva Hesse's art—about what lasts and what is fleeting—illuminate about the way each woman sees the world?

3. The story of these sisters begins at the end of someone else's story—Aunt Lucy's. In fact, you could see it as the story about another set of sisters. How does this section relate to the others that follow, and what dynamic does it create between Clem and Louisa? And what is the significance, throughout the book, of Lucy's enormous, well-kept secret? What role do secrets play throughout, especially in Clem's life?

4. Glass has chosen to tell this story through alternating perspectives and, from both sides, in first person. How does this affect your reading? How do you relate to both sisters and see them differently than perhaps they are able to see each other? Take a look at the different subtitles-from “Swim to the Middle” to “The Last Word.” What do they add, if anything, to your reading of the larger story?

5. Letter writing plays an important part in several sections (e.g., the letters Clem and Louisa write to each other, Clem's letters to Ralph, the letters Louisa finds from a high-school friend in an old box). How does letter writing create a different relationship between two people than e-mail does? Does a separate sense of Clem as a person emerge in her letters? What does it mean that Clem chooses R.B. as the recipient of her final, most significant letter? Read through that letter again. Do you think it has the impact she intended on those who will see it? Do you think she suspected that R.B. would not keep it to himself? Does the letter change the way you saw and felt about her up to this point in the book?

6. Cooking is meaningful in all of Glass's fiction. What role does it play in this book?

7. From the beginning, Clem acknowledges that she is her parents' favorite and feels this places a burden on her: “Every expectation you fulfill…puts you one step higher and closer to that Grand Canyon rim from which you could one day rule the world-or plummet in very grand style.” How does this feeling of expectation influence the way Clem leads her life? Describe the sisters' relationship with their parents. Do you see these bonds echoed in your own life, with your parents or children?

8. Clem's attitude towards dying is always cavalier; she makes light of death and even describes it once as a “state of respite.” Do you agree with Ralph, that she “needed to be fearless,” that her fearlessness was a screen for fear? If so, what do you think she feared so deeply? Why do you think she is able to desire for her sister what she herself avoids—a family, a steady relationship, a certain kind of calm?

9. Both Louisa and Clem have bodies that are marked—Louisa's by illness, Clem's by accidents. Describe their relationships to their bodies and their scars. How does their experience of illness and accident relate to their attitudes toward life and death? Why do you think Clem treasures her most dramatic scar? What role does Louisa's cancer play in the story? Do you think it has any influence on Clem's ultimate, fatal decision? At the end, Louisa acknowledges to Campbell that Clem was ill. Would Clem have agreed?

10. Clem says of Tighty that he “will never see the talents he's blessed with, only the ones that he yearns for.” Do you think this is true about Clem as well? If so, what are the talents she is blessed with, and which does she yearn for?

11. Although the primary relationship in this story is the one between Louisa and Clem, their ties to many other rich and varied characters are essential as well—ties to family, friends, colleagues, as well as lovers and husbands. Which of those other relationships strike you as the most pivotal in each woman's life?

12. Think of the men with whom the two sisters become romantically aligned: Luke, Zip, Hugh, Ray, Jerry, R.B., Campbell, and others. What do these various relationships tell you about these women at different stages of their lives? Do Louisa and Clem, despite their insistence on how differently they approach men, share a certain confusion when it comes to sexual and romantic desire? What does “love” mean to each sister?

13. Louisa yearns for children, yet she does not have them with either Hugh or Ray; in the end, she becomes a mother to her stepsons and godson. Clem doesn't want children-or, perhaps, will not let herself want them. Lucy has a child who is taken from her and grows up as her sister's son. May is, in an odd way, a mother figure to Tighty. Clem cannot help seeing the animals she works with as her dependents. Discuss the different facets of caretaking—parenting and otherwise—in this story. What do they say about families and familial responsibilities in the world at large? If you've read Glass's first two novels, Three Junes and The Whole World Over, how do the families in this new story relate to the families she's written about in the past?

14. “Everyone seems to know who I am, and what I think, but me.” Clem's statement suggests a divide from the world and the understanding she has about herself. Do you think others understand her well or not at all? How well does she understand herself? Do you think this statement could apply to the other characters as well? Which ones and why?

15. What do you understand about Clem through her relationship with the outdoors and animals? Do you think, as Jerry suggests, that she's “afraid of [her] animal self”? Do you think that Danny's death is what pushes her over the edge? Why?

16. Danny dies, ultimately, because of a congenital flaw in his heart, while Clem says about her own heart, “At my worst moments, I wonder if I know what a broken heart is—or a heart before it's broken. Maybe broken is all I know.” What about love makes Clem feel broken and unable to be whole? After Danny's death, she concludes that “the opposite of happiness isn't unhappiness….It's surrender.” What do you think about this idea?

17. At the end, Louisa says that “no one belongs to us, and we belong to no one-not in that sense. This should free us, but it never quite does.” Discuss this idea and how it fits in the novel. In what ways do we belong to one another? Relate this statement to what Ray says about Clem: “Nothing and no one were indispensable.” Are Louisa and Ray saying the same thing or something different about what we can and can't expect from the people in our lives?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 34 )
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(10)

4 Star

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2 Star

(9)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 8, 2008

    Julia Glass is back to form

    I loved Julia Glass's debut novel, Three Junes, but was disappointed in her followup, The Whole World Over. Happily, this third book marks a return to form for Glass, a talented writer who is especially adept at portraying complex family relationships. Clem and Louisa are two very different sisters who have grown up as competitors, yet are united by a deep, unshakable bond of affection. Glass recounts their story in alternating chapters that reveal their lives over the course of 25 years as a series of prickly confrontations, angry estrangements, and emotional reconciliations. As a sister who has experienced firsthand the push-me/pull-you dynamic of sibling rivalry, I found the book especially meaningful and moving.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 5, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    For the intelligent and sensitive reader, this book is a must!

    I loved this book. The author had me from the very first page and held me to the last. This is a story of two sisters, one a wild, seductive adventurer the other a survivor. Written in simple, elegant prose the author takes us through a quarter of a century of their lives beginning with sibling rivalry and ending with heart-breaking sibling love and loss. The beauty and themes of this book, love, life, death, family, and devotion to nature haunted me for days after I put it down. I SEE YOU EVERYWHERE is a book I will read and reread and remember all my life.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Not very captivating

    I loved Julia Glass's first novel, Three Junes, and was really looking forward to reading another novel by her. This one is very disappointing. There doesn't seem to be a point to it, and I feel I'm taking up time unnecessarily by reading it. I'd pass this one up for something else.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 11, 2010

    Best Enemies

    The love of a sister is puzzling. Somewhere between the boundaries of unconditional love, there is an abundance of jealousy, resentment, competition, and sometimes hatred. In Julia Glass's novel I See You Everywhere, she attempts to harness and explain the dynamics of this very relationship. Glass presents us with the lives of two sisters, Louisa and Clem. Although both stem from the same beginnings, blood seems to be the only thing these women share. The contrast is made starkly in the beginning chapters. Readers are puzzled as how Lou, a cautious bibliophile who loves art and literature and Clem, the wild child lover of everything wild and dangerous could be twined together at all. However, as the pages turn and readers find themselves stepping into the lives of Louisa and Clem we find that these sisters are much more analogous than could ever be previously comprehended.
    I was absolutely captivated by the writing of Julia Glass. One of the aspects that made this novel so reader-friendly was the format it was written in. I See You Everywhere is in sporadic chronological order written from alternating perspectives of the two sisters. This format is common in fiction works, but Glass truly utilizes the effect this writing scheme is supposed to project. The reader is forced to search the contrary sister's life for hints of the corresponding sister's life. Also, large chronological gaps provide injections of mystery and repel even the idea of the story dragging.
    Another approach to Glass's writing revels her mastery of human beings and their relationships. When we first meet Lou and Clem, they are in their early twenties
    and returning home to Vermont. Lou seems lost and spiteful to life, especially to her sister. She is an East Coast girl stuck in California after a college romance fizzled.
    Clem is a vivacious thrill-seeker with itch to save the world and all the animals who inhabit it. She has men at her disposal and is the clear favorite to her animal-loving mother. It almost seems like the readers are predisposed to love Clem and wonder why Lou can't get over her childish jealousies. The girls evolve into women and the once endearing traits of Clem betray her. Adventuresome turns into reckless and selfish. When I finished I See You Everywhere, I was shocked at how much my viewpoint of the women changed over the course of the writing without me even realizing it. To me, that is a mark of a truly great book.
    Being a sister myself, I was shocked at just how realistically Glass portrays sisterhood. When you pick up I See You Everywhere (and I recommend you do), you are not selecting easily dismissible sisterhood fluff. Glass stays true to life, undesirable traits we all possess, and the fact that we need each other more than we could ever realize.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 25, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Horrible

    This book was confusing -- uninteresting except for a flash here and there. I wasted my time on this book! Awful

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2014

    Sherlock

    Down a res peeps

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 1, 2010

    I agree with UGH!!

    I kept waiting for something to happen... I always finish a book. I read two other books while trying to get through this one. I'm giving the book away.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 17, 2009

    A Let Down

    I tried to get into this book, but the more I read, the less I related to the two sisters telling their stories. I kept waiting for something to happen, and by the time a tragedy struck, I didn't care. There was too much detail written on insignificant events and not enough on what I wanted to know about (Clem's mental health, Louisa's divorce, their relationships with their parents).

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 6, 2009

    I cried but not in a good way

    This book is very depressing, It made me have the blues for a couple of days. Towards the end it gets a lil boring ,like who cares.Ending was really bad but I did have some favorite parts but all in all not something I would recommend. If you want to try it, loan it from the library, that's what i did

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  • Posted August 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Very Disappointed

    I was excited about this book when I bought it, but very disappointed once I read it. The ending was terrible! I thought I would pass this book around to all my friends with sisters, but I wouldn't recommend it to any of them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2009

    Excellent

    This is a wonderful book. It's a soft, easy read. It provides a glimpse into the lives of two sisters that are very different, yet similar. It's not a thriller, it's more like coming home.

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  • Posted March 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Rather dull

    It was okay. If you are deciding between this book and a different one I would read the other book. It started okay, then got boring, sad, then it was over.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 6, 2009

    Disappointing

    The story of two sisters and their rivalry, growing apart, coming together, nothing out of the ordinary which could have saved this novel.
    A pool side or beach read at best; although with the flipping back and forth through the years it is sometimes hard to figure out whether you're in the past or present time frame.

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  • Posted March 4, 2009

    UGH!!!!

    I am one of those readers who ALWAYS finishes a book --- always hoping that it is going to get better as I read along. This is one of the few books I have ever just given up on. I couldn't take anymore. It all seemed pointless --- didn't seem to be going ANYWHERE!

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  • Posted October 30, 2008

    Boring, Boring, Boring

    I don't even know why I finished this book. Maybe it is because I thought it would get better. But it never did. Don't waste your money.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 23, 2008

    Not very good

    I was really let down by Glass's newest novel. I thought that the two sisters were not well-written characters and not likeable. You never really found out about their lives--it was just these snippets over the years. The characters were one dimensional. The most interesting part of the book was the first stoey about the older aunt in the North East and her life. I think Glass should write that as a novel. <BR/><BR/>The rest of this book is just a pity party for the two sisters. There is not really a plot, Glass just flits through in time, each story taking us a few years into the future. The whole problem with this book is that the reader just does not care about these two shallow sisters and their selfish lives--Not worth the time or money.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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