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Her: A Memoirby Christa Parravani
Synopses & Reviews
A blazingly passionate memoir of identity and love: when a charismatic and troubled young woman dies tragically, her identical twin must struggle to survive.
Christa Parravani and her identical twin, Cara, were linked by a bond that went beyond siblinghood, beyond sisterhood, beyond friendship. Raised up from poverty by a determined single mother, the gifted and beautiful twins were able to create a private haven of splendor and merriment between themselves and then earn their way to a prestigious college and to careers as artists (a photographer and a writer, respectively) and to young marriages. But, haunted by childhood experiences with father figures and further damaged by being raped as a young adult, Cara veered off the path to robust work and life and in to depression, drugs and a shocking early death.
A few years after Cara was gone, Christa read that when an identical twin dies, regardless of the cause, 50 percent of the time the surviving twin dies within two years; and this shocking statistic rang true to her. "Flip a coin," she thought," those were my chances of survival." First, Christa fought to stop her sister's downward spiral; suddenly, she was struggling to keep herself alive.
Beautifully written, mesmerizingly rich and true, Christa Parravani's account of being left, one half of a whole, and of her desperate, ultimately triumphant struggle for survival is informative, heart-wrenching and unforgettably beautiful.
"A photographer and identical twin tells the intimately delineated, raw story of her beloved sister's overdose on heroin and untimely death at age 28 in 2006. Emotionally attuned and protectively close to each other since growing up in Schenectady to parents in a rocky marriage before their strong-willed mother essentially raised them on her own, Parravani and her sister, Cara, were obsessed with the other for much of their lives: critical of their shared but subtly different looks; jealous of the other's boyfriends, then husbands; and certain that the twins would die somehow together. In her mid-20s Cara was violently raped in the woods near her Holyoke, Mass., home, and spiraled into drug abuse (e.g., prescription drugs, heroin) from what was eventually diagnosed as 'post-traumatic stress disorder with borderline features.' Her self-destruction imposed an enormous toll on the author, who felt responsible for her sister and riddled by guilt: 'I feel like her life is in my hands,' Parravani said to her then-husband. In between Cara's stays in rehab and mental hospitals, the author took numerous photographs of her sister and herself together as part of her growing artistic and teaching oeuvre, and in acutely observed passages (also alternating with Cara's diary entries), the author describes her eerie attempts to create for the camera identical likenesses. Cara's death sent the author into her own drug-induced death wish, before she pulled back from the brink; her memoir is a finely wrought achievement of grace, emotional honesty, and self-possession." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Christa Parravani's lyrical, no-nonsense Her ranks with the best American memoirs of the decade. This incandescent story of loving and losing one's twin is an uncompromising love poem to the joys and dangers of shared identity, and an unforgettable treatise on addiction, trauma, survival, and triumph." Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Lark and Termite and Machine Dreams
"Christa Parravani writes with extraordinary emotional honesty about being a twin and losing that beloved other self, and with equally remarkable candor about being an artist and about marriage, grief and much more. I have never read a book that so directly engaged the perils and exaltations of being a female. The scenes between the sisters in this book are breathtaking. And Christa's difficulty looking in the mirror after the death of her identical twin becomes the reader's desire to see him or herself, and the world, more sensitively. A fine and rare book." Alice Elliott Dark, author of In the Gloaming and Think of England
"Full of headlong energy, Christa Parravani's Her is reckless yet delicate, familiar yet otherworldly, precise yet with the soul of a fairytale, and deeply moving in surprising ways." Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City and The Ticking is the Bomb
"The best memoirs should come with a warning label, the kind that makes you take a deep breath before you open the cover. Her announces its challenges immediately while also establishing the voice that will pull you through the darkness of loss, memory and expiation. Suddenly bereft, twinless, distrusting the talent that has been her mainstay and questioning what it means to be a survivor, Christa Parravani carries us with her into the excavation of what it means to keep living, a lost twin and a woman digging herself out of her sister's loss. That she comes out the other side is never predictable — merely miraculous." Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina
"Out of a maelstrom of love, loss, and grief comes this beautiful clear-eyed memoir, one that reveals the power and peril of twinhood even as it explores ideas that affect us all: Why are we drawn to what may destroy us? What makes us hurt the ones we love? And when we experience tragedy, how do we keep grief from eating us alive? With a photographers sharp eye and a gifted writers penetrating insight, Parravani writes about being torn apart and then about piecing her life back together, brilliantly illuminating along the way what it means to be a sister, a daughter, a wife, an artist, and — ultimately, and triumphantly — herself." Julie Orringer, author of The Invisible Bridge
"Christa Parravani's exploration of her relationship to her troubled identical twin sister is deeply thoughtful, lyrical, even magical. As she struggles for identity amid her sister's suffering, Parravani's own strength and talents emerge. There is rarely much redemption in losing the people we love, but Parravani transforms her pain into true beauty on the page. Kerry Cohen, author of Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity
"In this powerful memoir about the death of her identical twin and its impact on her own life, Christa Parravani explores what it means to be a woman of creative spirit as few writers have. I couldn't stop looking at the photograph on the cover, wondering what it would be like to be as close to another person as these sisters were to each other. An intense reading journey, an inspiring book." Julie Metz, author of the New York Times bestselling Perfection
About the Author
Christa Parravani is a writer and photographer. Her photographs have been exhibited internationally, and are represented by the Michael Foley Gallery in New York City and the Kopeikin gallery in Los Angeles. She has taught photography at Dartmouth College, Columbia University and UMass, Amherst. She earned her MFA in Visual Art from Columbia University and her MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the writer Anthony Swofford (Jarhead) and their daughter.
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