Struggles between sisters
Julia Glass, winner of the National Book Award for Three Junes, is back with an achingly personal tale of sisters, I See You Everywhere. Readers come to know Louisa, traditional and accomplished, and Clement, wild seductress and animal lover, through vignettes without any clear structure, but which unerringly show us their disparate priorities and personalities. Despite their common upbringing, the two women are more different than alike. When apart, they seem to regard each other as casually as old college roommates, and when together, they only occasionally connect on a personal level. Their individual tragedies are as standard as boyfriend troubles, pregnancy scares and sibling rivalry, and as serious as near-fatal accidents and cancer. Though their surface concern for each other can be puzzling at times, it is when we find the small gems in Glass' prose that we realize how deeply these sisters are connected, and how authentic their relationship is.
The story's 25-year span gives us long views of the sisters' changing circumstances, from aspirations to jobs, from romances to marriage and children, and from dreams and ideologies to the reality of making a living and attempting to make a difference in the world, and we come to know the characters almost without being aware of it.
While Glass' fluid writing style allows for moments of genuine beauty in language, it is not until the final quarter of the book that readers will realize how emotionally invested in the characters they've become, after the plot takes a startling, heartbreaking hairpin turn. Suddenly the apparently unrelated vignettes of Louisa and Clem's lives make sense, and readers realize where Glass has been taking them, expertly, the whole time. It is that subtle, relentless seduction that makes I See You Everywhere a worthy and inevitable addition to Glass' body of work.
Kristy Kiernan, author of Matters of Faith, writes from southwest Florida.