Sunday, October 14, 2018

Review: Vanishing Twins by Leah Dieterich

Do you ever read a book everyone else who read it is raving about and wonder if you read the same book they did? Once you compare the text of what they read and what you read and discover that the book does in fact contain the same words, do you wonder if it's a case of the Emperor's New Clothes or if you missed something somehow? (I will admit I do tend to think that it's the former much more often than the latter.) Leah Dieterich's memoir, Vanishing Twins, is a book I struggled with as I was reading it and found utterly perplexing when I discovered that so many others consider it amazing.

The memoir is the story of Dieterich's sense of being one half of a whole, missing some shadow piece of herself, and searching for wholeness in ballet, in philosophy, in an early marriage, in sexual fluidity, in every aspect of her life, really. She says that she feels as if she is a twin, suggesting that she is the product of a vanishing twin pregnancy, where the mother's body (or the twin herself) reabsorbs one of the fetuses early on in the pregnancy. Unless I missed it, there is no scientific basis for her feeling; it is just a feeling she accepts as truth.  And one that drives her life.  She marries early and while she loves her husband, she finds the nature of monogamy stultifying so they eventually ease into an open marriage in which Dieterich explores her sexual feelings for a woman while her husband Eric has his own affair. What this duel exploration and Dieterich's living in a different city from her husband means to their marriage, her sense of herself, who she wants to be, and her acceptance of herself is the thrust of this memoir.

The writing here is choppy and fragmented. It is bluntly honest and yet somehow still hard to connect or sympathize with. Dieterich struggles with balancing her individual art within a marriage, a merged life, but she looks outside of herself rather than within herself to find a scapegoat for this struggle, her need for and the simultaneous rejection of a pas de deux. It is clear she is afraid she is subsuming her real self in the heterosexual, monogamous marriage society expects of her and that this fear of losing herself as an individual is absolutely overwhelming to her.  While she captures that feeling on the page, it didn't make for compelling reading for me. In fact, combine this with the style of writing and I just wanted to be done with the book. A search of self, love, and acceptance can be dynamic and gripping but, for me, unfortunately this just wasn't.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

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