CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 5 . . . . November 3, 2000
"We'll take the scenic route," Dad said as he headed north out of Detroit on Highway 94.Conroy and Caroline Taylor are identical twins. In fact, according to Connie, the story's narrator, they are mirror twins, which means they are perfect reflections of each other. One is left-handed; the other is right-handed. One's right ear is bent; the other's left ear is bent. And for the first eleven years of their lives, they have been quite happy to be known as "the twins." They dress alike, wear their hair the same way, speak in their own language called "Twinnish," and use their looks to play pranks on people. It is not only that they are best friends; it is as if neither one is complete without the other.
However, all that changes when Carrie suddenly develops the need to find her own identity, separate from Connie's, and she begins asserting her independence. After a bout of scarlet fever, her hair falls out, then grows back in tight little curls, and, for the first time in her life, she isn't confused for her sister. Carrie is thrilled. Connie, on the other hand, is mortified. She doesn't share, nor understand, her sister's need to "individuate,"and she feels betrayed and abandoned.
This hurt becomes magnified even further when Carrie begins pursuing friendships that don't include her twin. For the first time in their lives, the sisters begin to squabble. Where once they spoke their thoughts in unison, they are now barely speaking at all. As a last resort, Connie tries to make her own friends, and, after a few false starts, she forms a friendship with Wendy Johnson, a troubled girl from school. It turns out to be a stronger friendship than any of the ones Carrie has made, and Carrie becomes jealous of Wendy, though she never directly voices her feelings. But when Wendy moves away, Connie once again finds herself alone. She makes a few more attempts at finding a friend to replace Carrie, and now Wendy, but her efforts are futile, and so she joins Girl Scouts instead, only to discover that group activities aren't the answer either.
She has just resigned herself to the fact that, if she isn't a twin, she is destined to be a loner when she receives a letter from Wendy and an invitation to visit. Wendy extends the invitation to Carrie, too, but Carrie declines. So Connie goes alone and has a wonderful week's holiday. When Wendy's family invites Connie to stay a second week and come with them to Pebble Beach, Connie is tempted but declines, saying her twin misses her. But when Connie gets home, Carrie isn't even there to greet her. She is over at a friend's house. She phones to ask permission to go to a concert with her friend and stay the night. Connie's efforts to re-connect with her twin are foiled again.
That night Connie is awakened abruptly by a horrible pain in her right leg, and, at the same instant she cries out for her parents, the phone rings. It is the hospital. Carrie has been in a car crash and badly injured her left leg. She requires a blood transfusion, but the hospital doesn't have her rare blood on hand, and it is up to Connie to save her sister's life.
Most everyone has heard tales of the unexplainable bond between twins. This is the phenomenon Bernice Thurman Hunter explores in the novel, Two Much Alike. Carrie's desire to be her own person is very real. "I don't know who I is," she said when she was a very little girl, a sentiment Connie reiterates when Carrie begins distancing herself. For Carrie, "individuating" is a way of finding out who she is. For Connie, it has the opposite effect. Having her twin pull away is the same as losing her identity.
Carrie cannot deny her "twinness,"and Connie can't isolate the two of them from the rest of the world. What the sisters come to discover is that there is a middle ground.
Setting her story in the early 1950's, Hunter recreates a simpler, friendlier world than the one in which today's children live. Family is important, children respect their elders, and adults protect children. How refreshing! When the twins are spanked, it is not appalling because they are clearly not being abused, merely punished. For those who lived through the '50's, Two Much Alike is a walk down memory lane; however, unlike her wonderful Booky stories, Hunter's attention to detail tends to detract from this novel. Not until the final twenty pages does the intensity of the characters and action pick up, and the reader senses it is because period trivia is no longer being woven into the text and the story has been allowed to take over. It is a shame Hunter didn't let that happen sooner.
Kristin Butcher lives in Victoria, BC, and writes for children.
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