Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

I put off buying this book for a quite a while because I kept hearing so many poor reviews of it. "Not as good as her first book" (The Time Traveler's Wife) is inevitably written where ever I looked. That alone was not enough to deter me since a follow-up to TTTW would be very hard to match. But the reviews went further than that and I wondered if I really wanted to read this novel at all. But the synopsis had me hooked and I decided I finally must find out for myself.

The story centers around the lives of twin girls, themselves the daughters of a twin girl. It begins with the death of their aunt (Mother's twin) who they've never met, nor heard of. The twins inherit their aunt's estate and must move from Chicago to London to live in their aunt's flat for a year.

It is in London where the story develops amid the people who were formerly part of the aunt's life. This is a love story, a ghost story, a story of secrets and betrayal. There are some turns and twists, some expected, some maybe not.

Niffenegger's style is very readable and enjoyable. What I get most from other reviews is that readers had enjoyed the first half of the book but not the second half. One was a little more specific and said the first 2/3 as opposed to the last third. I mention the 2/3 vs 1/3 ratio because I believe that is likely the point where most dissenters fell out of the story.

As in TTTW, Niffenegger asks her reader to suspend belief and follow a story that is supernatural in nature. It's not too difficult to do in the beginning when the ghost character is introduced to the story, in fact the introduction of the ghost is quite charming as she discovers what it is to be a ghost. But further developments in the story require the reader to go outside the normal (?) boundaries of suspension of belief. The elements of the story seem no longer feasible or likely, even supernaturally.

I found myself falling down that same rabbit hole, thinking, "Nah, couldn't happen." But in an effort to really continue enjoying Niffenegger, I decided to suspend my beliefs just a bit further and go with it. If skepticism was to destroy my enjoyment of the tale, I should have let it take over much sooner. As long as I had come along this far, why stop now? I decided to play along and go for the entire ride.

I am glad I did. The story didn't play out how I wished it would but that was never the author's intention. It did, however, keep me thinking about the characters and their lives (or deaths) even after I closed the final page.