Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Orphan Sister

On top of being a graduate student, (studying creative writing) I am now a soon-to-be teaching fellow with my own freshmen composition class...

needless to say, reading strictly for pleasure is something I've forgotten how to do.

I read.

But there seems to be an ulterior motive now. A set of questions always linger not very far from the center of my brain, something like this:

What does this style reveal about the subject?
How are these sentences working together?
Could my class benefit from reading this?

So I was a little nervous when I got the latest novel by GWENDOLEN GROSS in the mail. Would I be able to turn off my student/teacher brain?

The answer is NO. BUT it didn't take away from the reading for pleasure aspect! In fact, reading a well-crafted book written by someone who knows (and teaches) the art of writing made my brain work overtime.

The Orphan Sister is not the first book I've read by GG (as I affectionately call her). In 2007, I blogged about one of her previous works, The Other Mother. She has published four novels altogether and I've had the pleasure of reading three. (I wrote pleasure!)

There is a lot of beauty within this book, through images and ways of communication. Triplets, Odette, Olivia, and Clementine provide a different sisterly atmosphere--because they are polyzygots--a set of twins from the same egg and a separate one, almost a spare.

The three often communicate through their thoughts, so we get to hear or witness internal dialogue, something I'm never come across while reading before--other than in monologues--but by definition a monologue is not necessarily known by another character.

My favorite part of the book is the background life of Clementine--the non-twin of the triplets. She is a bit of a free spirit or black sheep as far as the family dynamic is concerned. Instead of medical school, like her father and sisters, for example, she is interested in becoming a veterinarian.

Unlike her sisters, Clementine is single. Unlike her sisters Clementine is NOT pregnant. She didn't go to Harvard, but attended Oberlin. Instead of accepting her parents odd, mysterious relationship, she dissects it.

Her other-ness or orphan-ness makes her a character worth rooting for!

Other little "things" from the book:
  • Adjective Sandwiches which combines two of my favorite things: Words & Food
  • Alliteration, the artful arrangement of words containing the same beginning letter
  • Surprises at least five--a few of which I did NOT see coming
So I recommend this novel, obviously. It's a relatively fast read, but deeper than your average summer book. There are even "book club" questions at the end and an interview with the author--perfect for sharing with sisters, biological or chosen.


1 comment:

UK said...

This book was an okay read for me and it did hold my interest. But it was a bit slow and I never really felt like I got to know any of the characters besides Clem. The story is told from Clementine's point of view. She has always felt like the odd sister even though she is a triplet. Her two other sisters are identical twins and she is a fraternal.
The story opens up with the dad missing. Eventually we learn that their dad had a secret that he has never revealed to his family. When it comes to light, the family is divided and tested.
The story moves along very slowly. It really is a book about Clementine, and how events have shaped her life. Their dad has a very small role in the book. It seems to work because Clementine and her sisters constantly talk about how they rarely know him and he is always off traveling with work, etc. So the readers also do not really learn anything about him.
This is the first book I have read from this author. It was just okay for me.


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