Untwine: A Novel – Edwidge Danticat

Books Worth Crying Over, death, diversity in YA, families, Read-a-Likes

Identical twin sisters Isabelle and Giselle are born into this world holding hands – and are holding hands when a car wreck takes Isabelle out of this world.   The description of “untwine” sort of breaks your heart in the first chapter.

Haitian parents who have announced their divorce to their teenage daughters and then a car crash all within the first chapter – it’s another death story, but the twin aspect is new.  There are very detailed descriptions of the car crash that nearly destroys this family.   While Giselle is in the hospital unconscious, she hears her visitors and is trying to will her body to wake up.  Finally she does wake to the realization that her sister is dead.  The rest of the story is showing the family trying to cope and move on.  When the police come to question the family stating the accident is under investigation because they do not think the driver who ran into the family’s car (another high school student) was an accident, Giselle starts to investigate this theory.  What would a new student have against her family or her sister?

This is a heartbreaking story as we witness this family try to physically heal from horrific injuries to emotionally heal with the loss of a sister, daughter, niece, and granddaughter.  Giselle narrates the first part of the book from within a coma and tries to focus on visiting family members and doctors.  She can’t stay awake long enough to learn of her injuries or her sister’s.  Once she is released from the hospital, she must begin living her life minus her other half.  This is a lovely story of friendship, love, and having to start over.  There’s a little mystery thrown in, but the beauty in Untwine is the way in which love and heartache are portrayed from everyone from a boyfriend to a parent  Throughout the novel there are flashbacks and stories to exhibit the family dynamics, the tradition of Haitian culture, and Giz still manages to find a few teenage secrets her twin kept to herself.

You’ll cry.  You’ll feel love and hope, but you’ll cry.  Danticat writes of how the sisters are entwined, they were holding hands when they entered the world and they held hands in the backseat of the crash, which eventually was their final separation: their untwine. As Giz slowly accepts Isabelle’s death, she realizes the rest of her family survived.  One decision, to remove her seat belt for a  moment, changed everything, but she and her family will survive this.  She questions how even though some goodness came with closure (remember, it’s a bit of a mystery so I’m not going to give that away), her sister is still gone, and pain is still felt.  In her sixteen year old logic seeking brain, she believes that maybe her family had just had too much joy, it was time for something bad to happen, and others needed some joy.  Giz questions the idea of why bad things happen and feels the loss of not only her sister, but of her best friend and now has no one to be other other half to whom she talks too.

In a touching scene late at night, on the kitchen floor, her aunt says she will become that person for Giz.  I sort of want to be adopted into this family.   This is a beautiful multi-generational family who come together in the worst moment of their lives and support one another in order to try and heal.  Very touching family moments and a good tear-jerker well worth shedding a few tears.

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