Edwidge Danticat’s “Untwine”


From a multi-book review by Bennet Madison for The New York Times.

. . .

“Untwine,” the fifth book for young readers by the acclaimed memoirist and novelist Edwidge Danticat, is considerably less frantic. In fact, for most of the first half, the narrator, Giselle, doesn’t move at all: She’s confined to a hospital bed after a car accident that has left her and her parents seriously injured and her twin sister, ­Isabelle, dead.

As Giselle drifts in and out of consciousness, the narrative alternates between her recovery in the hospital and a collage of scenes from Giselle and Isabelle’s life before the accident. While this takes some patience to get through, Danticat’s portrayal of two ordinary sisters and their family, and the precariousness of daily life, is quite affecting.

Once Giselle wakes, things pick up a bit. She must cope with the confusion of re-entry into a life that, without her twin, feels disorienting and unfamiliar. Her parents — who were in the midst of a separation before the accident — are still sorting things out; her crush and her best friend have become uncomfortably close; and her body is still a long way from ­recovered.

Giselle is cleareyed in a way that is both realistic and refreshing. She’s neither numb nor hysterical; she’s just trying to get through this. The drama may feel frustratingly low-key for some readers, but Danticat’s measured pace and attention to emotional detail pay off. The final scenes, in which Giselle and her family travel to her parents’ native Haiti to scatter Isabelle’s ashes, are a genuinely moving exploration of the pain of separation — made all the more intense, we understand, when it’s from a twin — and the strange sense of exhilaration that sometimes accompanies it.


By Edwidge Danticat

303 pp. Scholastic Press. $16.99. (Young adult; ages 12 and up)

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