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The Atlantic Monthly
Tuesday, July 30th, 2002


The Art of Seeing


A review by Christina Schwarz

A reading group would have a field day with this elegant and complex study of two sisters: Rozzie, who works before the camera, and Jemma, who works behind it. Though the plot depends on a couple of elements that could easily lead to melodrama (Rozzie, the elder sister, becomes a movie star and then loses her sight), Cammie McGovern never strays even remotely in that direction. She remains focused, in this unusually accomplished first novel, on the intricate dance between siblings. Cleverly highlighting the differences in their perspectives, she explores the sisters' intense interdependence, the roles they require each other to play, and the unintended influence of their expectations and experiences on each other's lives. The conceits in The Art of Seeing the sisters' professions, for instance, and Rozzie's blindness, which enables them to see beneath the surface of their relationship -- can be a bit too heavy-handedly artful. But McGovern develops her literal story -- in which Rozzie and Jemma alternately, and sometimes even simultaneously, support and betray each other -- with such sincerity and sensitivity that this flaw is easy to overlook. In one of the best aspects of this novel, these extremely self-reflective characters tend to question their own motives. Wisely, McGovern doesn't give them all the answers.

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