Rachel Lynn Solomon
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars
Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.
But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.
When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.
These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?
From debut author Rachel Lynn Solomon comes a luminous, heartbreaking tale of life, death, and the fragile bond between sisters.
After reading the heartbreaking and thought-provoking Inside the O'Briens, I went in search of more fiction that deals with Huntington’s disease.
This is the story of fraternal twin sisters Adina and Tovah, two teenagers who have gradually grown apart.
Can one enjoy a book and at the same time be glad it’s over? Perhaps I’m just too old to read about 18-year-olds with their volatile emotions, their self-centeredness, and their never-ending drama. Add to this boiling cauldron a mother with early symptoms of Huntington’s disease and the upheaval that results when both sisters decide to take the genetic test to determine if they have inherited the gene. One of the twins has it and one doesn’t. This story very thoughtfully explores what it means to live with the possibility of inheriting a rare genetic disease and watching that disease slowly take the life of a parent as well as the survivor guilt experienced by the one who manages to escape this fate.
There are pros and cons to predictive testing. On the positive side is an increased ability to plan for the future and a life without worry or uncertainty about getting this disease. On the negative side, receiving a positive result is likely to be emotionally devastating to the individual. In Adina’s case, she experiences anger, despair, suicidal thoughts, and engages in self-destructive behavior. All of this makes it difficult to like her at times, but the author has done a wonderful job creating well-rounded characters that are easy to empathize with. While the sisters are both extremely competitive and share many of the same problems plaguing teenagers their age, it was good to have both of their perspectives, as their personalities, beliefs, and attitudes are very different. Another good thing is the presence of loving parents. So often, parents are absent or insignificant characters in fiction for young people.
While I was exhausted by the time I reached the story’s conclusion, I can’t deny that this debut was beautifully written, engaging, thoughtful, and convincing. I very much look forward to more of Rachel Lynn Solomon’s novels.
“The fear is never far away. My broken heel reminds me the disease could sneak up on me at any moment. One day I will twitch when I want to be still, rage when I want to be happy, forget when I want to remember. It has happened to my mother, and it will happen to me. We are a doomed family – but we are not done fighting yet.”
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