Published by Charco Press
Publication date – 23 August 2022
Source – review copy
Sisters Amy and Zoe grow up in Oklahoma where they are homeschooled for an unexpected reason: Zoe suffers from debilitating and mysterious seizures, spending her childhood in hospitals as she undergoes surgeries. Meanwhile, Amy flourishes intellectually, showing an innate ability to glean a world beyond the troubles in her home life, exploring that world through languages first. Amy’s first love appears in the form of her Russian tutor Sasha, but when she enters university at the age of 15 her life changes drastically and with tragic results.
Amy and Zoe are as close as sisters can be. Amy, the elder by two years, plays with, nurtures and protects Zoe. So when Zoe becomes ill, Amy feels her world shifting. She takes Zoe’s condition as her personal responsibility, that if she had looked after her better then Zoe would not have had the tumour which causes her to have seizures.
The book is written in short, sharp chapters, often just a page in length. Each one slowly builds a picture of a family and the fall out of an illness. It shapes the lives of the sisters, and as Zoe learns to live with her illness, Amy is unaware that her own illness, depression, is slowly emerging.
There is little speech between characters, that present is not denoted by speech marks. There is a sense of detachment from the lives of the girls, perhaps because of the nature of the narrative. It is not a negative. There is a sense of fairy tale like mystic to the story, and a feeling that there is a lot left unsaid. This is also aided by the fact that Amy plays more of a starring role. It is Zoe’s illness that changes the course of their lives but it is Amy’s path that the reader takes. We see her fall in love for the very first time, move to college as a young girl and the fall out from that.
A short, intimate portrayal of a relationship forged in childhood and changed forever through circumstance.