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A photographer and identical twin tells the intimately delineated, raw story of her beloved sister's overdose on heroin and untimely death at age 28 in 2006. Emotionally attuned and protectively close to each other since growing up in Schenectady to parents in a rocky marriage before their strong-willed mother essentially raised them on her own, Parravani and her sister, Cara, were obsessed with the other for much of their lives: critical of their shared but subtly different looks; jealous of the other's boyfriends, then husbands; and certain that the twins would die somehow together. In her mid-20s Cara was violently raped in the woods near her Holyoke, Mass., home, and spiraled into drug abuse (e.g., prescription drugs, heroin) from what was eventually diagnosed as "post-traumatic stress disorder with borderline features." Her self-destruction imposed an enormous toll on the author, who felt responsible for her sister and riddled by guilt: "I feel like her life is in my hands," Parravani said to her then-husband. In between Cara's stays in rehab and mental hospitals, the author took numerous photographs of her sister and herself together as part of her growing artistic and teaching oeuvre, and in acutely observed passages (also alternating with Cara's diary entries), the author describes her eerie attempts to create for the camera identical likenesses. Cara's death sent the author into her own drug-induced death wish, before she pulled back from the brink; her memoir is a finely wrought achievement of grace, emotional honesty, and self-possession. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Few of us see ourselves in a living reflection, knowing me literally and figuratively through her. Cara and Christa Parravani were inseparable, identical twins bonded by a ferocious love that protected them against an abusive father, a militaristic stand-in dad, sour romantic relationships, and sometimes even each other. We knew who we were: We were best friends. We were enemies. We were all we had. Cara's violent rape, hardcore drug addiction, and personality disorder frame the book's primary trauma, but are, perhaps, trumped by Christa's struggle to survive when half of her Cara dies. At the very least a memoir, Her is more an homage, a form of therapy, and a declaration of independence from an unsustainable survivor's guilt. Concise and captivating, Parravani's prose paints her phoenix-like transformation such that the reader feels the flames of her fire. A poignant, book-arcing metaphor illustrates Christa's battle to accept herself without a mirror image. Initially a photographer, Parravani captured her observations and her twin with pictures. Years after Cara's death, in a final attempt to claw free from depression, she writes. No longer a passive watcher of her own life, Christa authors this twin's memoir, and thus her future. Raw and unstoppable, Her illuminates the triumph of the human spirit both individual and shared.--Fronk, Katharine Copyright 2010 Booklist