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“What good can the past do the living? What harm?” Growing up in their family’s ancestral home in Wales, Jonathan Anthony and his little sister, Theo, are inseparable. Together they explore the wild acres of Evendon, inventing magical worlds and buttressing each other against the loneliness of life with their alcoholic mother, Alicia, and a shifting cast of gossiping cooks and maids. When a family tragedy brings their glamorous grandmother, Eve, home from America, Jonathan and Theo are initially elated by the attention she lavishes on them. But soon it becomes clear that there is more to the Anthony family history than either Eve or Alicia will acknowledge, trapping Jonathan and Theo in a web of dark secrets that have haunted Evendon for generations. Written in luminous prose, with richly endearing characters and a profound appreciation for the rustic beauty of the Welsh countryside, The Other Half of Me is a darkly wise coming-of-age novel and a masterful portrait of a family and the burdens of the past.
The Other Half of Me is not the usual book I accept for review – we all know I’m a mystery lover at heart and at the very least need some good suspense to keep me sucked into the story. So when I first got the opportunity to read The Other Half of Me and read the synopsis, I was like “meh..” but then I continued reading and there was the first paragraph and I knew automatically I was going to read The Other Half of Me, there was no way I could simply walk away. It was like they were words that were written specifically for me, and I’ve written things in a similar vein, I just think there are somethings we can all relate to.
I’m not usually one to quote from books in reviews either, but this book had some great quotes; here are the opening lines of the book that hooked me from the get go:
“It doesn’t take long to divide an old life from a new life–a few minutes, not even that. One quick, unfair blow, and you find yourself looking back across the uncrossable, to a place that can’t ever be reached again, despite the fact you were there–brushing your teeth or reading a paper or wondering where you left your umbrella–just a moment ago. But that’s over, the kind, old life, and you have to go out into the unknown, unbalanced world, where everything important is wrong.” -pg. 1
The Other Half of Me is told from Jonathan’s perspective. He’s Theo’s brother and as they’re growing up we learn all about their lives. They belong to a very wealthy family – that doesn’t act much like a family. They don’t call their mother “mom” but by her first name, Alicia. They’re grandmother Eve who is the matriarch of the family is away much of the time and they all live together at the family estate – Evendon. Pretty much having the run of the place as Alicia is an alcoholic who barely acknowledges she has children let alone disciplines them. The maids are about the only thing that provide any sort of structure at the house. And yet the children are not crazily unruly horrible brats either.
You can’t help but love Theo. She has such a sweet, gentle, compassionate and sensitive soul. Jonathan recognizes this even as a child and does everything he can to shield her from the harsh realities and any sadness he can. It’s a trend that will continue even as they get older, him always trying to protect her. I loved the relationship they had with each other. So different in personalities but a common identity as well.
The book takes place in a few different time frames, so we go back and forth, and even though the jaunts we take are usually quite long so it’s not constant back and forth, sometimes I’d lose my footing when the time would change and I’d have to think about what things had been going on in the present time and what hadn’t yet happened. It didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book any, it was just a slight challenge.
There are so many quotes I found myself loving, I didn’t mark them all as I wanted to keep reading and I get impatient to stop to frequently.. But here is another one that struck me deeply aside from the opening page:
“The past isn’t a story. it isn’t Eve’s story or my story. It is not linear, it is not fixed. The past is an unknown pool, its cool brim the border where memory begins. It ripples as the light changes, it is cohesive, a different substance from the present, it cannot be breathed. You can’t tell it: whatever you repeat is not the truth because it is not complete. All you can do is stare into the water and try to see as much as you can.” -pg. 315
I found The Other Half of Me entrancing. You wouldn’t think a mystery lover could get so caught up in a contemporary novel but there is this very subtle but ever present dread and foreboding that you can sense in the undercurrent. The family has secrets that is for sure. The ending has a twist that I never saw coming. And for those of you who need your happy endings – there is reason to smile at the close of the last page.
I really can’t recommend The Other Half of Me enough – especially to contemporary fiction lovers and for those of you who just love some damn good writing!
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*Review Copy provided by Publisher for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. Please note there are affiliate links in this post, we thank you for your support.