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[154] I See You Everywhere – Julia Glass

This is the 400th post in the category Books.

“Pain is a detached thing…It’s like the bass in a good song. As first you don’t feel it, but in the end it’s what you’re dancing to.” [255]

“As we grow older, however, our tragedies diminish in their grandeur. Not to us, not personally, but in what my father would call the cosmic scheme of things. Because tragedy, like a rare dark flower gone to seed, proliferates all about us.” [277]

Julia Glass’s third novel takes on a literary landscape similar to her previous works: a vignette of interpersonal histories across the years. Two sisters, four years apart, are “as different as white chocolate and seaweed.” Their complex bond, one of them observes, is “like a double helix, two souls coiling around a common axis, joined yet never touching.” Louisa graduated from Harvard—conscientious student, aspiring artist, pursuer of true love and happy marriage. Meticulous and obsessed with language, Louisa never mellows out. Clem is the younger one: an archetypal rebel who delights in subverting her sister’s virtues. A wildlife biologist, Clem possesses no vestige of a scholar. She is daring, uncontainable, and irresistible to men. Beneath her worldliness is a self-imposed pressure to be the brilliant iconoclast.

I You Everywhere reads like a memoir of the sisters unfolding across twenty five years, from 1980 to 2005. They take up the narrative in turns. 20-years-old Clem came to take care of Lucy, her 98-years-old great grandaunt in her last days and became great friends. It’s here, at Lake Winooski, in the summer of 1980, in the quaint Victorian house on the edge of wreckage—a time warp, that Clement Jardine spent the happiest time in the novel. I did not perceive the significance of this early scene, in which her happiness is untainted. From here she plunged into a life full of conflict between her karma and the woes of the world. She was bent on saving grizzly bears from extinction and at a pivotal moment before an unexpected turn of event she reflected, “The opposite of happiness isn’t unhappiness, it’s surrender.” She could be the wildest and happiest girl but that she couldn’t save a bear held to her conscience.

The chick lit sensibility that the first half of the book proclaims eventually evolves into an emotional depth constituted by marriage problems, parenting issues, and maiming sickness. As Louisa aborted her pottery making and took up an editorial job for an art magazine, she also faced tough decision in her relationships—a stagnant marriage to a man who kept his feelings in the shade, an occasional tango with another man. She poignantly reflected that tragedies diminish in their grandeur as she has grown older. For these tragedies are more credulous and more likely to occur as one ages. Over the years each of the sisters views the other less as a nemesis than as a means, even a mirror maybe, to a more profound understanding of her own deepest, and often darkest, self. Julia Glass has written a touching story of two sisters who, in times of need, are comfort to each other despite their sometimes antagonistic relationship, which is grounded in affection.

This novel will be released on October 14.

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