Review: Identical Strangers

Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited – Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein

A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited

From Publisher’s Weekly –

In this transfixing memoir, Bernstein, a freelance writer, and Schein, a filmmaker, take turns recounting the story of how each woman, at age 35, discovered she had an identical twin sister, and the reunion that followed. Despite disparate upbringings, education and work experiences, the twins share matching wild hand gestures, allergies, speech patterns and a penchant for the same art movies. Louise Wise Services, the adoption agency, will reveal only that their biological mother was schizophrenic and unaware of who their father was. Records of the study the agency conducted about them are sealed, so the authors spearhead their own research project by poring over birth records, tracking down their birth mother’s brother and interviewing researchers, who claim that twins raised apart are more similar than those raised together. Much of the book is devoted to fascinating stories of other twins and triplets who, when reunited as adults, are shocked by how much they have in common with one another. Bernstein and Schein’srelationship becomes extremely close and also fraught with expectation. Once you find someone, Bernstein writes, you can’t unfind her.

My thoughts –

I was VERY impressed with this book.  These women have the most unbelievable story to tell – they were separated at birth in order to participate in a study about twins raised apart (unbeknownst to their adoptive parents), only to discover each other at the age of 35, after which they spent the next few years tracking down any and all information related to their birth family and the adoption agency that robbed them of each other for so many years.  The book is narrated by both sisters, in alternating segments, so you really get a feel for how each woman feels about the situation (usually, their reactions to almost everything are quite different).  In addition to focusing about this particular story, there is TONS of interesting information in this book about twins in general, especially other pairs of identical twins who had been separated, as well as passages about mental illness, as most of the separated twins in the study had a family history of some type of mental illness. 

This book is really fabulous, I’d highly recommend reading it.  Actually, I listened to the audiobook while driving to work over several days, and I’d really suggest doing so.  The two sisters are narrated by two different women, and you can really get an understanding of their two distinct personalities that way.  This is the first time I’d really gotten into an audiobook, and I think I’ll definitely try another.  My commute actually recently increased to about double what it was previously, and listening to a book really breaks up the monotony of the long drive each day.

Read this book… it’s REALLY good. 🙂

9 thoughts on “Review: Identical Strangers”

  1. I absolutely concur!

    Although I somehow didn’t blog about the book, it did make my list of the top 13 books I read in 2007.

  2. Oh, my gosh – I just looked at this book yesterday and thought it looked interesting, but I resisted the urge to buy it. I’m glad to read that you liked it. It’s going on my wish list right now.

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