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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 41.
- Review Date: 2008-08-04
- Reviewer: Staff
SignatureReviewed by Lydia MilletThe fictional palate of Julia Glass, bestselling author of 2002’s Three Junes, is one of dog-breeding women and foxhunts, tony Manhattan galleries and boutiques, European travel and haute-cuisine chefs. In common with Rebecca Wells’s Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood franchise, Glass’s third novel, I See You Everywhere, has female bonding among the landed gentry, a focus on relationships, and devil-may-care, enigmatically charming women of great romantic allure.Like Three Junes, the novel is a series of vignettes across the years, in this instance from the points of view of two sisters with different personalities. Louisa, the elder, is the steady sister on the lookout for love, while Clem is the younger sister, an adventuring, restless spirit with an unfortunate habit of chewing men up and spitting them out. Their parents, too, resemble those in Three Junes: the mother is obsessed with raising and training expensive dogs on a country estate (this time in Rhode Island instead of Scotland); their father is a good-natured, kindly soul who plays second fiddle to a powerful wife. Louisa, not unlike Glass herself, is an urban woman who inhabits the New York art world and moves from making art (pottery) to writing; Clem, being a wilder sort, has a passion for wild animals and moves around the remoter reaches of the continent as an itinerant biologist to do contract work with charismatic fauna ranging from seals to grizzly bears. It’s not entirely clear how the sisters relate to each other’s livelihoods; Clem seems largely uninterested in art, whereas Louisa alternates between lavishly praising her sister’s work to save animals as heroic and referring to polar bears, in 2005, as “like Al Gore... suddenly all the alarmist rage.”City and country mouse have a wary, competitive, sometimes antagonistic relationship grounded in affection; they occasionally steal each other’s boyfriends, but are usually there for each other in times of need, up to and including possible drowning, maiming and cancer. Both cook well, though Louisa is the true gourmet. Clem is better in the sack, at least if we take her word for it: as she says in a letter—reminding us, perhaps inadvertently, of the piña colada song—what she likes most in life are laughter, sex, champagne and sunsets. The sisters do have music in common: though both white, they listen almost exclusively to music by black performers, from Billie Holiday to Bob Marley.I See You Everywhere has a bourgeois, chick lit sensibility, minus the proud vacuousness of the Bushnell set and plus a somewhat unexpected, sad vanishing act by one of the protagonists. It should prove an engaging and intelligent, though not literary, page-turner for sisters who like to revel in sisterhood.Lydia Millet’s most recent novel is How the Dead Dream (Counterpoint).
Struggles between sisters
Julia Glass, winner of the National Book Award for Three Junes, is back with an achingly personal tale of sisters, I See You Everywhere. Readers come to know Louisa, traditional and accomplished, and Clement, wild seductress and animal lover, through vignettes without any clear structure, but which unerringly show us their disparate priorities and personalities. Despite their common upbringing, the two women are more different than alike. When apart, they seem to regard each other as casually as old college roommates, and when together, they only occasionally connect on a personal level.
Their individual tragedies are as standard as boyfriend troubles, pregnancy scares and sibling rivalry, and as serious as near-fatal accidents and cancer. Though their surface concern for each other can be puzzling at times, it is when we find the small gems in Glass' prose that we realize how deeply these sisters are connected, and how authentic their relationship is.
The story's 25-year span gives us long views of the sisters' changing circumstances, from aspirations to jobs, from romances to marriage and children, and from dreams and ideologies to the reality of making a living and attempting to make a difference in the world, and we come to know the characters almost without being aware of it.
While Glass' fluid writing style allows for moments of genuine beauty in language, it is not until the final quarter of the book that readers will realize how emotionally invested in the characters they've become, after the plot takes a startling, heartbreaking hairpin turn. Suddenly the apparently unrelated vignettes of Louisa and Clem's lives make sense, and readers realize where Glass has been taking them, expertly, the whole time. It is that subtle, relentless seduction that makes I See You Everywhere a worthy and inevitable addition to Glass' body of work.
Kristy Kiernan, author of Matters of Faith, writes from southwest Florida.