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When Jane Alison was a child, her family met another that seemed like its mirror: a father in the Foreign Service, a beautiful mother, and two little girls. The youngest girls from each family--one of them Jane--even shared a birthday.
With so much in common, the two families became almost instantly inseparable. Within months, affairs had ignited between the adults, and before long the pairs had exchanged partners--divorced, remarried, and moved on. As if in a cataclysm of nature, two families were ripped asunder, and two new ones were formed. Two pairs of girls were left in shock, a "silent, numb shock, like a crack inside stone, not enough to split it but inside, silently fissuring." And Jane and her stepsister were thrown into a state of silent combat for the affections of their absent fathers--a contest that, for one of them at least, would prove tragic.
Readers drawn to "The Glass Castle" will be moved by Alison's stunning emotional insight as she recounts the intimate devastations of family betrayal.
Starred Review. In this enormously compelling memoir, novelist Alison (Natives and Exotics) recounts the strangely definitive reconfiguration of her family when her parents broke up and switched partners and children with another couple they met in Australia. In 1965, when Alison was four and her sister seven, they were living in Canberra, where her father was an Australian diplomat. The family met an American diplomat and his family with two daughters of similar ages-the youngest, Jenny, even shared the same birthday as Alison. The couples were fascinated with each other, and soon the marriages realigned: Alison and her sister moved in with their mother, Rosemary, an Australian teacher, and Paul, the American diplomat, who moved them back to the U.S.; Alison's father, Edward, now married to Helen, became stepfather to her two daughters in Australia. During the seven years of Paul and Rosemary's tenuous marriage, Alison, a plucky, boyish, observant child, set out to win Paul's admiration by her accomplishments, and when she finally saw her biological father again in 1973, it became clear that Alison and her antipodal sister, Jenny, were each harboring the mass of fantasy, jealousy, and longing that was crucial and would define us. Alison masterfully delineates the treacherous forms this jealousy would take, especially amid the sexual self-abnegation of adolescence, in a truly unusual, harrowing journey of identity. Publishers Weekly