A Meeting Place for Early loss twins

This is really my twin's Enjy's place, not mine. S/He does not have any other place in this world. S/He was miscarried at age four months in the womb. We were twins and made to be together for years and we were torn apart within seconds. This is the place where I go to talk to him/her and about him/her. Anyone who has lost a twin in utero or very early is very welcome here to read and share.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Books about twinloss No 5: "Are you alone on Purpose" by Nancy Werlin

"Are you alone on Purpose" is one of the books I found on amazon.de by inserting "twins", "death" or "loss" for a search. It also is clearly a product of contemporary American creative writing. You learn to detect certain details they ALL use. The main characters in these books are shaped by using three different columns: Clothes, food and hair. The reader is constantly told what the characters are eating - and they do a lot of eating - what they are wearing - and they change clothes several times per day, and NEVER is a shirt just a shirt but the colour and brand HAS to be mentioned - and how they are wearing their hair. Its colour, texture and degree of waviness is of utmost importance, especially in boys.

It's a bit annoying that books  tend to be more and more similar, but it also provides a challenge to distinguish the good ones from trash.

"Are you alone on Purpose", re-printed in 2007 (amazon doesn't give me the date of its first publishing and I'm too lazy to find out, now) isn't bad.

It deals with twinloss in a very special sense. 14-year-old Alison Shandling's twin brother Adam is very much alive, but he is autistic and so Alison is very much on her own. In the book's last chapter when she, who always was the good child, at long last flies off the handle and tells her parents how she really feels, she realizes she has never been a little girl. For her own perception she has always been the "normal" child, the one who had to make up for Adam being not "normal". There's a parallel in that to many stories told by surviving twins how they feel they have to make up for their twin's death.

I especially liked that the book is settled in middle- to upper-class American Jewish community. After the death of an uncle Alison's not very religious parents are shocked at her daughter's casual question "What's kaddish?" and decide to join a synagogue. It's not quite clear why, for the Rabbi there promptly annoys Harvard Professor Shandling's family by making a boring sermon and asking tactless questions about Adam. Still, they keep trying to fit in with the community and want to enroll their children into Hebrew Classes. Rabbi Roth refuses to accept Adam because he fears the special needs of the autistic boy and Adam's and Alison's mother makes a scene in his office peaking in her clearly spoken wish his own son, Harry, who's a bully at Alison's school, might be even more handicapped than Adam.

Fate aka the author wills it that Harry has an accident that very same day and ends up in a wheelchair. He also improves a lot, turns out to be nice and sensitive boy and finally - quelle surprise! - becomes Alison's boyfriend.

What interested me - beside my chronic philosemitism - was how Alison is described as a twin and yet on her own. The twinship is an issue only in  a few sentences, when Adam calls his sister "Alison Shandling" thus showing he recognizes her as a member of the family and his own special universe, or they sit together in front of the dishwasher which Adam likes to watch. Alison is very much a twinless twin of some sorts. It's unclear, even, whether Adam knows he's a twin or if it means anything to him. Alison more than once says she used to hate her brother and it's clear he got much more attention from their parents than she got and than she needed. But it's also clear, as Harry once says to his father, "she cares about her brother". He uses this sentence to describe Alison and why he likes her when it is very difficult for him to speak to his father at all. The bond between those twins has to be picked from all the words used in the book by bits and pieces and then it becomes a quite clear picture to those who can see. I found the book to be inspirational for my own task to be a twin without my twin - and to be myself at all.

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