Synopses & Reviews
From the author of the best-selling Three Junes
comes an intimate new work of fiction: a tale of two sisters, together and apart, told in their alternating voices over twenty-five years.
Louisa Jardine is the older one, the conscientious student, precise and careful: the one who yearns for a good marriage, an artistic career, a family. Clem, the archetypal youngest, is the rebel: uncontainable, iconoclastic, committed to her work but not to the men who fall for her daring nature. Louisa resents that the charismatic Clem has always been the favorite; yet as Clem puts it, On the other side of the fence-mine-every expectation you fulfill...puts you one stop closer to that Grand Canyon rim from which you could one day rule the world or plummet in very grand style.
In this vivid, heartrending story of what we can and cannot do for those we love, the sisters grow closer as they move farther apart. Louis settles in New York while Clem, a wildlife biologist, moves restlessly about until she lands in the Rocky Mountains. Their complex bond, Louisa observes, is like a double helix, two souls coiling around a common axis, joined yet never touching.
Alive with all the sensual detail and riveting characterization that mark Glass's previous work, I See You Everywhere is a piercingly candid story of life and death, companionship and sorrow, and the nature of sisterhood itself.
"Signature Reviewed by Lydia MilletThe fictional palate of Julia Glass, bestselling author of 2002's Three Junes, is one of dog-breeding women and foxhunts, tony Manhattan galleries and boutiques, European travel and haute-cuisine chefs. In common with Rebecca Wells's Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood franchise, Glass's third novel, I See You Everywhere, has female bonding among the landed gentry, a focus on relationships, and devil-may-care, enigmatically charming women of great romantic allure. Like Three Junes, the novel is a series of vignettes across the years, in this instance from the points of view of two sisters with different personalities. Louisa, the elder, is the steady sister on the lookout for love, while Clem is the younger sister, an adventuring, restless spirit with an unfortunate habit of chewing men up and spitting them out. Their parents, too, resemble those in Three Junes: the mother is obsessed with raising and training expensive dogs on a country estate (this time in Rhode Island instead of Scotland); their father is a good-natured, kindly soul who plays second fiddle to a powerful wife. Louisa, not unlike Glass herself, is an urban woman who inhabits the New York art world and moves from making art (pottery) to writing; Clem, being a wilder sort, has a passion for wild animals and moves around the remoter reaches of the continent as an itinerant biologist to do contract work with charismatic fauna ranging from seals to grizzly bears. It's not entirely clear how the sisters relate to each other's livelihoods; Clem seems largely uninterested in art, whereas Louisa alternates between lavishly praising her sister's work to save animals as heroic and referring to polar bears, in 2005, as 'like Al Gore... suddenly all the alarmist rage.' City and country mouse have a wary, competitive, sometimes antagonistic relationship grounded in affection; they occasionally steal each other's boyfriends, but are usually there for each other in times of need, up to and including possible drowning, maiming and cancer. Both cook well, though Louisa is the true gourmet. Clem is better in the sack, at least if we take her word for it: as she says in a letter reminding us, perhaps inadvertently, of the pia colada song what she likes most in life are laughter, sex, champagne and sunsets. The sisters do have music in common: though both white, they listen almost exclusively to music by black performers, from Billie Holiday to Bob Marley.I See You Everywhere has a bourgeois, chick lit sensibility, minus the proud vacuousness of the Bushnell set and plus a somewhat unexpected, sad vanishing act by one of the protagonists. It should prove an engaging and intelligent, though not literary, page-turner for sisters who like to revel in sisterhood.Lydia Millet's most recent novel is How the Dead Dream (Counterpoint). " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] promising extension of Glass's already impressive range." Kirkus Reviews
"Glass is a wisely questioning, ardent, and artful novelist." Booklist
"Rich, intricate and alive with emotion....Glass has used the edges and color blocks of her own life to build an honest portrait of sister-love and sister-hate." New York Times
"Julia Glass is a writer firmly in control." Dallas Morning News
"Glass elegantly captures what it means to be an independent and spirited contemporary woman." Chicago Tribune
"[Julia Glass] strings together a series of episodes with alternating points of view that meander along for a while, then trail off into a vapor....The stop-and-start effect of this structure might lead some to regard Glass's book as closer to a set of linked stories than a novel, but to me it reads like the same novel starting over and over again, a wearying process in which Glass's sprightly prose...becomes stifled." Donna Rifkind, The Washington Post Book World
(read the entire Washington Post Book World review
About the Author
Julia Glass is the author of Three Junes, which won the National Book Award for Fiction, and The Whole World Over. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Her short fiction has won several prizes, including the Tobias Wolff Award and the Pirate's Alley Faulkner Society Medal for the Best Novella. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.
Reading Group Guide
1. I See You Everywhere
focuses on the relationship of Louisa and Clement Jardine. Describe each sister's character. How are they like and unlike each other-also, like and unlike their parents? What do their attitudes toward work, love, and family have in common? How do they differ?
2. Especially at the beginning, Louisa's sense of her own identity depends largely on her relationship to art-her pottery and writing; later on, her work with other artists as an editor and a gallery director. What does this say about Louisa? In “Coat of Many Colors,” why does Esteban's knitting speak so deeply to her? And later, in “The World We Made,” what does Clem and Louisa's conversation about Eva Hesse's art-about what lasts and what is fleeting-illuminate about the way each woman sees the world?
3. The story of these sisters begins at the end of someone else's story-Aunt Lucy's. In fact, you could see it as the story about another set of sisters. How does this section relate to the others that follow, and what dynamic does it create between Clem and Louisa? And what is the significance, throughout the book, of Lucy's enormous, well-kept secret? What role do secrets play throughout, especially in Clem's life?
4. Glass has chosen to tell this story through alternating perspectives and, from both sides, in first person. How does this affect your reading? How do you relate to both sisters and see them differently than perhaps they are able to see each other? Take a look at the different subtitles-from “Swim to the Middle” to “The Last Word.” What do they add, if anything, to your reading of the larger story?
5. Letter writing plays an important part in several sections (e.g., the letters Clem and Louisa write to each other, Clem's letters to Ralph, the letters Louisa finds from a high-school friend in an old box). How does letter writing create a different relationship between two people than e-mail does? Does a separate sense of Clem as a person emerge in her letters? What does it mean that Clem chooses R.B. as the recipient of her final, most significant letter? Read through that letter again. Do you think it has the impact she intended on those who will see it? Do you think she suspected that R.B. would not keep it to himself? Does the letter change the way you saw and felt about her up to this point in the book?
6. Cooking is meaningful in all of Glass's fiction. What role does it play in this book?
7. From the beginning, Clem acknowledges that she is her parents' favorite and feels this places a burden on her: “Every expectation you fulfill…puts you one step higher and closer to that Grand Canyon rim from which you could one day rule the world-or plummet in very grand style.” How does this feeling of expectation influence the way Clem leads her life? Describe the sisters' relationship with their parents. Do you see these bonds echoed in your own life, with your parents or children?
8. Clem's attitude towards dying is always cavalier; she makes light of death and even describes it once as a “state of respite.” Do you agree with Ralph, that she “needed to be fearless,” that her fearlessness was a screen for fear? If so, what do you think she feared so deeply? Why do you think she is able to desire for her sister what she herself avoids-a family, a steady relationship, a certain kind of calm?
9. Both Louisa and Clem have bodies that are marked-Louisa's by illness, Clem's by accidents. Describe their relationships to their bodies and their scars. How does their experience of illness and accident relate to their attitudes toward life and death? Why do you think Clem treasures her most dramatic scar? What role does Louisa's cancer play in the story? Do you think it has any influence on Clem's ultimate, fatal decision? At the end, Louisa acknowledges to Campbell that Clem was ill. Would Clem have agreed?
10. Clem says of Tighty that he “will never see the talents he's blessed with, only the ones that he yearns for.” Do you think this is true about Clem as well? If so, what are the talents she is blessed with, and which does she yearn for?
11. Although the primary relationship in this story is the one between Louisa and Clem, their ties to many other rich and varied characters are essential as well-ties to family, friends, colleagues, as well as lovers and husbands. Which of those other relationships strike you as the most pivotal in each woman's life?
12. Think of the men with whom the two sisters become romantically aligned: Luke, Zip, Hugh, Ray, Jerry, R.B., Campbell, and others. What do these various relationships tell you about these women at different stages of their lives? Do Louisa and Clem, despite their insistence on how differently they approach men, share a certain confusion when it comes to sexual and romantic desire? What does “love” mean to each sister?
13. Louisa yearns for children, yet she does not have them with either Hugh or Ray; in the end, she becomes a mother to her stepsons and godson. Clem doesn't want children-or, perhaps, will not let herself want them. Lucy has a child who is taken from her and grows up as her sister's son. May is, in an odd way, a mother figure to Tighty. Clem cannot help seeing the animals she works with as her dependents. Discuss the different facets of caretaking-parenting and otherwise-in this story. What do they say about families and familial responsibilities in the world at large? If you've read Glass's first two novels, Three Junes and The Whole World Over, how do the families in this new story relate to the families she's written about in the past?
14. “Everyone seems to know who I am, and what I think, but me.” Clem's statement suggests a divide from the world and the understanding she has about herself. Do you think others understand her well or not at all? How well does she understand herself? Do you think this statement could apply to the other characters as well? Which ones and why?
15. What do you understand about Clem through her relationship with the outdoors and animals? Do you think, as Jerry suggests, that she's “afraid of [her] animal self”? Do you think that Danny's death is what pushes her over the edge? Why?
16. Danny dies, ultimately, because of a congenital flaw in his heart, while Clem says about her own heart, “At my worst moments, I wonder if I know what a broken heart is-or a heart before it's broken. Maybe broken is all I know.” What about love makes Clem feel broken and unable to be whole? After Danny's death, she concludes that “the opposite of happiness isn't unhappiness….It's surrender.” What do you think about this idea?
17. At the end, Louisa says that “no one belongs to us, and we belong to no one-not in that sense. This should free us, but it never quite does.” Discuss this idea and how it fits in the novel. In what ways do we belong to one another? Relate this statement to what Ray says about Clem: “Nothing and no one were indispensable.” Are Louisa and Ray saying the same thing or something different about what we can and can't expect from the people in our lives?