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A blazingly passionate memoir of identity and love: when a charismatic and troubled young woman dies tragically, her identical twin must struggle to survive Christa Parravani and her identical twin, Cara, were linked by a bond that went beyond siblinghood, beyond sisterhood, beyond friendship. Raised up from poverty by a determined single mother, the gifted and beautiful tw A blazingly passionate memoir of identity and love: when a charismatic and troubled young woman dies tragically, her identical twin must struggle to survive Christa Parravani and her identical twin, Cara, were linked by a bond that went beyond siblinghood, beyond sisterhood, beyond friendship. Raised up from poverty by a determined single mother, the gifted and beautiful twins were able to create a private haven of splendor and merriment between themselves and then earn their way to a prestigious college and to careers as artists (a photographer and a writer, respectively) and to young marriages. But, haunted by childhood experiences with father figures and further damaged by being raped as a young adult, Cara veered off the path to robust work and life and in to depression, drugs and a shocking early death. A few years after Cara was gone, Christa read that when an identical twin dies, regardless of the cause, 50 percent of the time the surviving twin dies within two years; and this shocking statistic rang true to her. "Flip a coin," she thought," those were my chances of survival." First, Christa fought to stop her sister's downward spiral; suddenly, she was struggling to keep herself alive. Beautifully written, mesmerizingly rich and true, Christa Parravani's account of being left, one half of a whole, and of her desperate, ultimately triumphant struggle for survival is informative, heart-wrenching and unforgettably beautiful.


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A blazingly passionate memoir of identity and love: when a charismatic and troubled young woman dies tragically, her identical twin must struggle to survive Christa Parravani and her identical twin, Cara, were linked by a bond that went beyond siblinghood, beyond sisterhood, beyond friendship. Raised up from poverty by a determined single mother, the gifted and beautiful tw A blazingly passionate memoir of identity and love: when a charismatic and troubled young woman dies tragically, her identical twin must struggle to survive Christa Parravani and her identical twin, Cara, were linked by a bond that went beyond siblinghood, beyond sisterhood, beyond friendship. Raised up from poverty by a determined single mother, the gifted and beautiful twins were able to create a private haven of splendor and merriment between themselves and then earn their way to a prestigious college and to careers as artists (a photographer and a writer, respectively) and to young marriages. But, haunted by childhood experiences with father figures and further damaged by being raped as a young adult, Cara veered off the path to robust work and life and in to depression, drugs and a shocking early death. A few years after Cara was gone, Christa read that when an identical twin dies, regardless of the cause, 50 percent of the time the surviving twin dies within two years; and this shocking statistic rang true to her. "Flip a coin," she thought," those were my chances of survival." First, Christa fought to stop her sister's downward spiral; suddenly, she was struggling to keep herself alive. Beautifully written, mesmerizingly rich and true, Christa Parravani's account of being left, one half of a whole, and of her desperate, ultimately triumphant struggle for survival is informative, heart-wrenching and unforgettably beautiful.

30 review for Her: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Faith Anderson

    I randomly found this at the bookstore tonight. This is a memoir written by the photography teacher I had at Keene State Fall 2006. Each week in class we had to post pictures on the board for our professor (Christa) to critique. I was a student that one day surreptitiously in class took a picture of Christa while she was sitting on on the table hunched over. I posted this picture on the board and not until she had described the picture as showing a woman frail and sad did she realize it was a pi I randomly found this at the bookstore tonight. This is a memoir written by the photography teacher I had at Keene State Fall 2006. Each week in class we had to post pictures on the board for our professor (Christa) to critique. I was a student that one day surreptitiously in class took a picture of Christa while she was sitting on on the table hunched over. I posted this picture on the board and not until she had described the picture as showing a woman frail and sad did she realize it was a picture of her. She immediately fled the classroom leaving me (and the rest of the class) wishing the earth would open up and swallow me right then and there. Needless to say I got an A, and this story made it in the book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

    HER is a tragic story of identical twins torn apart first by a rape and then by death. This is a surprisingly intimate memoir. Christa Parravani isn't keeping many secrets, and the line between herself and her sister Cara is almost nonexistent. She shares deeply personal information about both of them in equal measures. Excerpts from Cara's private writings are scattered throughout the book, including her written account of the rape that destroyed her. The author's twin sister Cara was a vivaciou HER is a tragic story of identical twins torn apart first by a rape and then by death. This is a surprisingly intimate memoir. Christa Parravani isn't keeping many secrets, and the line between herself and her sister Cara is almost nonexistent. She shares deeply personal information about both of them in equal measures. Excerpts from Cara's private writings are scattered throughout the book, including her written account of the rape that destroyed her. The author's twin sister Cara was a vivacious, mischievous, confident young woman. She expected good things to happen to her, so much so that when she entered the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes, she tied balloons to their mailbox so Ed McMahon would be able to find their house when she won. Everything changed for Cara in her early twenties, when she was raped in such a hideous way that she lost her former self completely. She turned to drug abuse and other risky behaviors, and died five years later from an accidental overdose. Having an identical twin is about as close as you can get to having a second self. Christa and Cara were even closer than most identical twins. They slept back to back in the same bed all through childhood, roomed together in college, and even invaded each other's marriages with a sort of jealous possessiveness. When Christa lost Cara, she could not tolerate being twinless. She set off on a self-destructive path similar to Cara's, starving herself down to 85 lbs. and becoming addicted to pills. There's not a lot of joy here, but Christa Parravani's writing is remarkably clear-eyed and balanced. She shares the depths of her despair and self-abuse without straying into melodrama or assigning blame. Writing became Christa's road back to a healthy and productive life, as well as a way to stay connected to her lost sister. She says of her writing: "It did what time and therapy and lovers never could. I knew that to write I must have a clear mind. And because writing was the only way to be with Cara, to move again in tandem, writing won hands down over my crazy grief." I read a lot of memoirs, but this is the first one I've read that helped me understand what it's like to be an identical twin, and even more revealing, what it's like to lose the only person who shares all of your memories since birth. The loss is like suddenly becoming half a person, and Christa had to redefine who she was without that other half. She's a courageous and talented writer, and I look forward to reading more of her work. Christa took a series of photographs of herself and Cara, many of which are described in the book. You can view twenty of these photos here: http://www.christaparravani.com/kindr...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

    The author Christa Parravani gave a fabulous interview about this book on NPR. Unfortunately, the actual book didn't live up to her description of it. Her sister Cara's sexual assault and ensuing drug addiction ending in an overdose and the author's own grief at the death of her identical twin are heart wrenching for the reader, but that's it. The author paints her twin and herself as self-aborbed, self-entitled, self-indulgent, needy, incredibly dysfunctional, inconsiderate, volatile, and immat The author Christa Parravani gave a fabulous interview about this book on NPR. Unfortunately, the actual book didn't live up to her description of it. Her sister Cara's sexual assault and ensuing drug addiction ending in an overdose and the author's own grief at the death of her identical twin are heart wrenching for the reader, but that's it. The author paints her twin and herself as self-aborbed, self-entitled, self-indulgent, needy, incredibly dysfunctional, inconsiderate, volatile, and immature. Repeatedly, the author voices the attitudes I have feelings; therefore, everything I say is valid and You refuse to believe everything I think is right, so I hate. There is an art in memoir of making oneself likeable while discussing the gritty, not pretty details of one's life and how one treated the people in one's lives badly and unfairly. Neither twin is the slightest bit likeable. Time and distance hasn't given the author any objectivity, or at least she never expresses any. This book lacks the self-awareness and clarity found in memoirs like Lit: A Memoir and It's So Easy: And Other lies. Some examples: the author is astounded that her first marriage failed primarily due to her infidelity. She actually thinks that because her sleeping with other people was just a form of self-abuse that she was using to mask her grief over her sister's death, her husband shouldn't have taken it personally and left her. Shouldn't she be able to see in hindsight that he had a legitimate grievance instead of sticking to the defense 'you leaving me for my numerous affairs is no different than you leaving me because I got cancer'? And she also blames her first husband for failing to and not caring enough to "save" her sister. Why couldn't she admit that although she felt this way at the time, her sister wasn't in a place to get clean/sober and someone whom she bullied and disliked certainly wouldn't have been capable of saving her if her twin couldn't? The author makes a lot of generalizations about identical twins throughout the memoir, and even gets a medical fact wrong (identical twins don't always share a placenta or a embryonic sac; it depends upon when the egg splits), but she and her sister don't have a normal identical twin relationship. Christa's twin Cara despite having a husband and separate household of her own showed up on Christa's honeymoon. That is not normal. Identical twins with normal healthy relationships and independent identities don't gatecrash their twin's honeymoon or show up unannounced at their house whenever they want or buy their twin an engagement ring when they get engaged. The Parravani sisters have an extremely codependent and dysfunctional relationship, which they might have had due to their abusive childhood if they'd just been sisters, but being twins it went to the extreme. The ending is very Hollywood. The author meets the man of her dreams and is healed by their marriage and the birth of their child at which she hallucinates that her twin is present.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Miserable whine after whine memoir. What not to do and how not to think after a traumatic assault- should be under the "her" title. If you enjoy reading how beautiful and highly educated women with terrific bonds and advantages USE them repeatedly to commit various self-destructive behaviors against their own selves, in order to fill vast internal voids- then this book is the one for you. And the saddest part of all is that I absolutely think that the surviving sister is in a WORSE place for havin Miserable whine after whine memoir. What not to do and how not to think after a traumatic assault- should be under the "her" title. If you enjoy reading how beautiful and highly educated women with terrific bonds and advantages USE them repeatedly to commit various self-destructive behaviors against their own selves, in order to fill vast internal voids- then this book is the one for you. And the saddest part of all is that I absolutely think that the surviving sister is in a WORSE place for having written it. And I studied and interviewed twins for research being done in a Cognitive Psychology path for over 5 years. Empathy is not what Christa needs, frankly.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Leish

    This book. I almost don't even know where to begin, or how. To say that I loved this book would be an understatement. To say the writing was beautiful would almost be a disservice. The writing was perfection. This book reached into my soul and grabbed on for dear life. I just can't shake it. But enough about me, let's talk about Her. I've always had a fascination with twins. I always wished I was a twin, I just found the relationship to be so interesting and enviable. The way Parravani describes This book. I almost don't even know where to begin, or how. To say that I loved this book would be an understatement. To say the writing was beautiful would almost be a disservice. The writing was perfection. This book reached into my soul and grabbed on for dear life. I just can't shake it. But enough about me, let's talk about Her. I've always had a fascination with twins. I always wished I was a twin, I just found the relationship to be so interesting and enviable. The way Parravani describes her relationship with Cara is almost as if they are not even separate people. They are two halves of a whole. So while having an identical twin gives you a lifelong friend, it also seems incredibly isolating. It was almost as if they didn't know how to function if the other wasn't there, and it turns out that this was true after Cara's death. I loved how Christa intertwined her own words with Cara's, both having an incredible gift. In reading Cara's passages, I could get a sense of how detached she was after her rape. It was actually quite chilling to read. As her life began to careen off-track, I could feel Christa's desperation through the page. And that moment when she knows her sister is dead...that moment punched me right in the gut. This book will be highly recommended to all the readers in my circle of family and friends. The beautiful words paired with the tragic story and intimate look into the life of a twin create the perfect storm. It creates the perfect book, and you should all rush out and buy a copy. I bought two, one for me and one for the library. This book was provided for review on Confessions of a Bookaholic. All thoughts an opinions are my own.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Angela Risner

    Whenever I read a book, I look for the following things: 1. Did I like the characters? Could I root for them? Did I become invested in what happened to them? 2. Did it inspire feelings in me? Did I get angry or sad or happy? 3. Did the story make sense? 4. Did I learn anything, either about myself or a subject? Her is Christa Parravani's memoir of her twin sister, Cara, and her own life. Cara and Christa are identical twins, who share that secret bond that fascinates all of us single-born folks. My Whenever I read a book, I look for the following things: 1. Did I like the characters? Could I root for them? Did I become invested in what happened to them? 2. Did it inspire feelings in me? Did I get angry or sad or happy? 3. Did the story make sense? 4. Did I learn anything, either about myself or a subject? Her is Christa Parravani's memoir of her twin sister, Cara, and her own life. Cara and Christa are identical twins, who share that secret bond that fascinates all of us single-born folks. My own mother is a twin (we believe identical, but back then births were at home and no one checked for a one or two sacs.) I have often envied their closeness. Both Christa and Cara are artistic types; Cara is a writer and Christa is a photographer. The Parravani twins have a rough start in that their father is abusive. As the synopsis for the book tells you, Cara is raped and her life is forever changed. She begins a downward spiral into drugs and other forms of self-abuse. Christa becomes her sister's keeper, even through both of their marriages. However, it's impossible to live someone else's life for them and control the outcome, no matter how hard you try. This was a tough book for me to read, because I wasn't sure that I ever enjoyed the characters. Both twins seemed very narcissistic and naive. To me, Christa only became likeable at the very end of the book, and that's why I didn't want it to end. There were times when I was excited about the book and wanted to read more. However, the material was so heavy that I could only read a bit at a time without wishing it would move faster and be over sooner. At the same time, I can definitely say that this book made me feel things. I was frustrated with Cara's behavior. I was angry at Christa for how she handled her twin's death. Granted, I have not been through this scenario, so I am not in any place to judge. But those were the emotions it elicited from me. Not bad, but not great.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Phoenix

    Pretty disappointing considering the premise. Repetitious, morose and without a lot of room for empathy. Or else, I am just a cold heared bitch and missed the point entirely. I choose to believe that as a cathartic memoir this is lacking an emotional connection with the reader.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kurt

    When I try to name my greatest fear, I tend to choose something that really scares me, but "getting fat again" and "karaoke" and "social rejection in general" are really just the scariest of the things I'm able to name. If I'm being honest, outliving my identical twin is far and away my greatest fear, I just can't name it because the naming makes it real for an instant and I can't even handle that. My brother and I fought hard to construct separate identities when we got to high school and reali When I try to name my greatest fear, I tend to choose something that really scares me, but "getting fat again" and "karaoke" and "social rejection in general" are really just the scariest of the things I'm able to name. If I'm being honest, outliving my identical twin is far and away my greatest fear, I just can't name it because the naming makes it real for an instant and I can't even handle that. My brother and I fought hard to construct separate identities when we got to high school and realized that we would never have friends if everyone still viewed us as "the twins," so these days we live twelve hours apart, working different jobs with similar motivations. Still, we tend to make identical decisions without consulting with each other, mix up memories, and have the same dreams, and there is no one in the world who can ever be as important to me as my brother. Christa Parravani has lived through my worst nightmare and worse, and her beautiful book takes readers on an intimate journey through hopelessness to hope in a way that has emotionally wrecked me. This memoir tells the story of Christa and Cara, identical twins who survived a difficult childhood to become artists (one with words, one with photographs). Their lives intertwine perfectly until the day Cara is raped by a stranger while she walks her dog. The two women have been untwinned, the magnitude of the crime causing each to lose her sense of self, and Cara spirals out of control for the few years that remain for her. When Cara dies of an overdose, Christa's entire being changes forever, and this book dwells on the self-destructive ways she mimics her sister or flees from similarities (starving herself so she can stop wearing her sister's shape in the mirror, but taking pills to find the same escape her sister preferred). The self-disclosure is savage - Christa writes a brutally honest account of sex and drugs and suicide attempts, and a reader should be warned that this book is disturbing. But it's undeniably true, and it does end in hope, the kind of hope that hits like a freight train and brings tears of relief. I can't think of a book I've read in the last five years that has unsettled me so much, especially one that has come back with such elegant beauty to restore me. Everyone should read this for its beauty and power, and identical twins should read it as a potential lifesaver. (tangentially, I learned after choosing this book from the Amazon Vine program that my office's new intern is a former student of Christa Parravani, and she told me about a reading Parravani would be doing in my town. Christa is absolutely electrifying in person, she was kind when I told her the book felt like she'd been reading my mail, and I highly recommend that everyone should turn out to her book tour when she finishes her next book)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Patrizia

    How much did I loathe this book? A lot. Yes, it is a really sad story. Cara's fate is tragic - a beautiful, independent, saucy young woman, she survives a brutal rape that sends her spinning into Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and concomitant drug abuse. Eventually, she moves from prescription painkillers to heroin and ODs. The book isn't really about Cara, though. It's about her twin sister, Christa. Christa suffers from survivor's guilt. Her survivor's guilt takes the form of an obsession with he How much did I loathe this book? A lot. Yes, it is a really sad story. Cara's fate is tragic - a beautiful, independent, saucy young woman, she survives a brutal rape that sends her spinning into Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and concomitant drug abuse. Eventually, she moves from prescription painkillers to heroin and ODs. The book isn't really about Cara, though. It's about her twin sister, Christa. Christa suffers from survivor's guilt. Her survivor's guilt takes the form of an obsession with her dead twin, but it's not a particularly interesting obsession because Christa is not a particularly interesting writer. In fact, she epitomizes a style I like to call I am Vagina, hear me bleed. I avoid these kinds of books whenever I can and I felt like I really got sold a mislabeled bill of goods here because it was touted as the second coming of Mary Karr. It ain't. This book was really hyped as literature. Guess what, though? It's not literature. You know why it was published? 'Cause she's Mrs. Jarhead. And goddammit, that just pisses me off.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Turner

    DNF I got to the half way mark and then just couldn't read any further. I didn't like any of the characters in this book especially the two main characters, Cara and Christa. I thought them selfish, inconsiderate and self-centered, and the more I read, the less I cared about what happened to them. I didn't particularly enjoy the way the book was written either. The story jumps backwards and forwards quite a bit, and some sections are written from Cara's point of view. It became too much effort to k DNF I got to the half way mark and then just couldn't read any further. I didn't like any of the characters in this book especially the two main characters, Cara and Christa. I thought them selfish, inconsiderate and self-centered, and the more I read, the less I cared about what happened to them. I didn't particularly enjoy the way the book was written either. The story jumps backwards and forwards quite a bit, and some sections are written from Cara's point of view. It became too much effort to keep track of who and when. The author wasn't very convincing. Tiresome, boring and at times repetitive.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Her is a very moving sad book about a woman who's twin dies of a drug overdose at the young age of 27 leaving her feeling as if half of her deteriorated and disappeared. Though separate people, they had always hung together even after marrying which of course they did closely together. Both women were artists, the dead sister Cara being a writer and Christa being a photographer. Both attended top notch colleges and graduate schools and considered up and comers in academic realms. The tragedy beg Her is a very moving sad book about a woman who's twin dies of a drug overdose at the young age of 27 leaving her feeling as if half of her deteriorated and disappeared. Though separate people, they had always hung together even after marrying which of course they did closely together. Both women were artists, the dead sister Cara being a writer and Christa being a photographer. Both attended top notch colleges and graduate schools and considered up and comers in academic realms. The tragedy begins when Cara attends Holyoke College in Massachusetts. It is highly regarded ana an all female college but is now located in a depressed small city. Cara and her husband choose to live in Holyoke rather than nearby Amherst like most grad students and overlook the poverty and decay. One afternoon, walking her dog in a local park, Cara is brutally beaten and raped by a homeless man in the area. There is no escape and the rape goes on awhile. She is released and pursues prosecution, but the trauma of rape and the brutality never lessens and the prosecution takes years. Cara is treated in several mental hospitals ranging in quality but seems to only meet more troubled people, petitions to be released and becomes steadily addicted to drugs gotten through the Internet and probably heroin. Cara's marriage falls apart and eventually she dies. What Christa seems to go through is whether to follow her sister in deterioration or attempt to satiate emotionally and save her own life. This book represents that attempt. A moving, sad book which demonstrates what it like to be an identical twin.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Susan Bartol

    Christa Parravani is an identical twin whose sister has passed away. They grew up in a very dysfunctional home and the girls had an intensely close relationship. After Cara was brutally raped, she became a drug addict unable to recover from her attack. Christa then suffered after Cara's death destructively punishing herself. This book was depressing - constant struggles just to survive. The girls were intensely close - almost to a point of weirdness that I just don't get but then I don't have a Christa Parravani is an identical twin whose sister has passed away. They grew up in a very dysfunctional home and the girls had an intensely close relationship. After Cara was brutally raped, she became a drug addict unable to recover from her attack. Christa then suffered after Cara's death destructively punishing herself. This book was depressing - constant struggles just to survive. The girls were intensely close - almost to a point of weirdness that I just don't get but then I don't have a sister much less an identical twin. Oftentimes the closeness in the relationship was just way too much for me. I can't imagine my sister crashing my honeymoon uninvited. To me, that is not close but rather rude, selfish and disrespectful. This book was one long story of their struggles. I also didn't care for how the author jumped back and forth through time nor how she wrote sections from Cara's point of view. Christa seems to have pulled it together in the end finally meeting and marrying a man she loves, but that is the last two chapters and she doesn't go into her recovery and mental stability as much as I would have liked.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Emotional Rollercoaster The premise of this memoir is how difficult it is to lose a sister, a twin sister. I don’t want to devalue such a horrible loss but by the end of the book I was becoming offended by the implication that twins feel more than the rest of us. The loss of a loved one is just as difficult for everyone. OK I got that out of the way. “Her” is a moving book, it’s well written and insightful. Parravani made herself vulnerable in a way few people would allow themselves to be. Her jo Emotional Rollercoaster The premise of this memoir is how difficult it is to lose a sister, a twin sister. I don’t want to devalue such a horrible loss but by the end of the book I was becoming offended by the implication that twins feel more than the rest of us. The loss of a loved one is just as difficult for everyone. OK I got that out of the way. “Her” is a moving book, it’s well written and insightful. Parravani made herself vulnerable in a way few people would allow themselves to be. Her journey is painful and though we know she survives whether or not she thrives seems always in doubt. It was an honor to walk that path with her. She and her twin Carla battle domestic abuse as children as well as substance addictions when they’re adults. Carla is brutally raped and never quite comes back from it. Throughout the book there’s something that seems ‘off’ about her even before the attack. That ‘offness’ made me wonder how truthful Christa was being. In the last third of the book she finally reveals Carla’s psychological diagnosis and things fall into place. Though I understand why she put off sharing this diagnosis I couldn’t help feeling manipulated if not outright lied to. At the same time I understand why she wrote their story this way. She probably didn’t want that label to interfere with the pathos of what they went through. Sometimes a label dehumanizes. In this case I wish Christa had told us earlier. This would have made Carla’s bizarre behavior more comprehensible and even lent more sympathy in my opinion. “Her” is still a moving and revealing memoir of a difficult life/lives and well worth reading. This review is based on an advanced reading copy received from the publisher. (Disclaimer added as required by the FTC.)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nanette

    I was drawn to Her based on a review, but I probably would have picked it up based on the cover. The image is striking--two young women, one gazing directly, unflinchingly at the camera, the other gazing downward, almost toward the other woman's feet. I'm not sure which of the two is the author, Christa Parravani, and which is her identical twin sister. It's a fitting image for the cover of the book, which is about the twins' relationship, and is as unflinching and striking as the gaze of the wo I was drawn to Her based on a review, but I probably would have picked it up based on the cover. The image is striking--two young women, one gazing directly, unflinchingly at the camera, the other gazing downward, almost toward the other woman's feet. I'm not sure which of the two is the author, Christa Parravani, and which is her identical twin sister. It's a fitting image for the cover of the book, which is about the twins' relationship, and is as unflinching and striking as the gaze of the woman in the photograph. Cara Parravani is dead. This is established on the first page of the book, and is the why behind the memoir. Christa explores her complex relationship with her twin, the events that lead to her early death, and the aftermath of Cara's death. It's not a linear narrative--Christa jumps around from childhood to adulthood, meandering through the women's deeply-entwined lives. Excerpts from Cara's writing are peppered throughout. And it's not a pretty story--Christa is up-front about the flawed bits of both women's lives. She's not euphemistic. She puts it out there and implores the reader to turn their gaze towards it. There are a lot of reviewers who go on about how Christa Parravani isn't likeable, and that some of her actions are troublesome. Somehow, I don't think she wrote this book to be liked, and liking her isn't the point. I think she wrote this book to express what it's like to lose part of yourself, and what's it like to come back from that kind of loss. On that note, Her is a success.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Denise DeSio

    Her: A Memoir, by Christa Parravani, is one of those sad tales of loss made all the more poignant in audio book form for having been read by its author, whose gentle, controlled voice belies the powerful impact of her story. I have deliberately avoided reading other reviews of this amazing audio book because I don't want to be infuriated by reviewers who downgrade an extremely well-written, interesting (and in this case, fascinating) book because "it's depressing" or "I don't like the characters Her: A Memoir, by Christa Parravani, is one of those sad tales of loss made all the more poignant in audio book form for having been read by its author, whose gentle, controlled voice belies the powerful impact of her story. I have deliberately avoided reading other reviews of this amazing audio book because I don't want to be infuriated by reviewers who downgrade an extremely well-written, interesting (and in this case, fascinating) book because "it's depressing" or "I don't like the characters." To that I say: Read the &)(*#%[email protected] blurb before you buy the book rather than giving an author grief in the form of a bad review. There! Now that I've gotten that off my chest, allow me to go on. The expert juxtaposition of squalor and purity, decadence and simplicity, the brutal ugliness and disarming beauty in this book, that often reads like poetry, is only surpassed by one constant - the unfaltering, albeit obsessive, bond of love between identical twins Cara and Christa. As a result of having lived a childhood filled with dysfunction and abuse, Christa and Cara become two halves of one person dissolving into an identity meld that eclipses the bond of siblings, transcends the bond of normal twins, and exceeds all rational limits, to the point of one twin crashing the other's honeymoon and the other twin wanting her there. When twins share an interdependent identity like this, it isn't surprising that when one twin dies, the other twin feels that she must take over both halves of the pair in order to remain whole. In this case, Christa takes on Cara's identity, that of a drug addict who had been slowly destroying herself. Unfortunately you only need one half of a drug addict to subsume the rest of your personality, and Christa soon finds herself in the same predicament as her sister, and heading for the same dismal end. The above paragraph is the crude version of what happens. The book is the nuanced, detailed, ethereally poetic and haunting version, one that slaps you in the face with its psychosis one second and fills you with merciful empathy the next. During this mesmerizing glimpse into the lives of the author and her twin I felt amazed and horrified, and critical and charitable by turns. But in the end, I was left with enormous compassion for the surviving twin who fights to rebuild herself from scratch, yet manages to retain the love in that part of herself and her twin that was good and true. As a person who never had a sister, no less a twin sister, I found this book riveting.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sasha

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The book had a great premise...the death of an identical twin and the sorrow that follows the loss of someone so close to you. However, the book was far too self-absorbed and read like a spiritual journey of a woman not in touch with reality. While the brutal rape of her twin sister was traumatizing, it was the sister, herself, who caused her own demise. Rather than reading the mourning of a young woman who spent her life making the world a better place, it tells the tale of a very selfish, self The book had a great premise...the death of an identical twin and the sorrow that follows the loss of someone so close to you. However, the book was far too self-absorbed and read like a spiritual journey of a woman not in touch with reality. While the brutal rape of her twin sister was traumatizing, it was the sister, herself, who caused her own demise. Rather than reading the mourning of a young woman who spent her life making the world a better place, it tells the tale of a very selfish, self-absorbed twin who seemed to suffocate her twin sister with her demands and inability to be second. The book was far too melodramatic for my tastes and in parts where she should have been dramatic (when her therapist revealed that she had not been at full disclosure with her and had her own "little secret"), she spoke of it nonchalantly. Life is about choices and I feel the author made a choice to make her identical twin sister the main focus of her life and used her as an excuse for many things that happened in her life.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sera

    A sad but strong book about the relationship between the author and her twin sister, whose life became turned upside down after she was violently attacked. Parravani is an excellent writer with an uncanny ability to bring the most minute of details to light in the book. I listened it to on audio. The author was the reader, which I generally don't like, but here it made sense, because the story is so intimate and personal that it probably would have been less powerful if someone else besides Parr A sad but strong book about the relationship between the author and her twin sister, whose life became turned upside down after she was violently attacked. Parravani is an excellent writer with an uncanny ability to bring the most minute of details to light in the book. I listened it to on audio. The author was the reader, which I generally don't like, but here it made sense, because the story is so intimate and personal that it probably would have been less powerful if someone else besides Parravani had read it. I highly recommend this book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    This is some freaky-ass shit. Maybe I'll give it another read sometime in the future, with the perspective of already having read it a first time. And then maybe I'll be a little more able to sympathize with the author. But I doubt it. The insight: Beware: Christa Parravani is pretentious, holier than thou, and sooooooo much better than her dead twin, Cara, was--you know, the twin whom she says in seven different ways was fat without actually using that word. She berates her sister for her heroin This is some freaky-ass shit. Maybe I'll give it another read sometime in the future, with the perspective of already having read it a first time. And then maybe I'll be a little more able to sympathize with the author. But I doubt it. The insight: Beware: Christa Parravani is pretentious, holier than thou, and sooooooo much better than her dead twin, Cara, was--you know, the twin whom she says in seven different ways was fat without actually using that word. She berates her sister for her heroin addiction--and heavy Klonopin use--but meanwhile, somehow, she's conveniently left out--except for the one single sentence that somehow slipped by someone or other's eyes--that she herself was dating a heroin addict, who was supplying her own sister with H. Later, even though SHE'S swimming in booze and tossing pills down her gullet at an insanely frantic pace, she's still way superior to her sad, dead, fat sister, and still so damn superior to YOU. There isn't anyone anorexic, freaked-out Parravani doesn't insult or make fun of, whether it's her dead twin, her stepfather, the band Poison who were so absolutely gracious to her in her "grieving"; her students, her sister's ex-boyfriends, her own current husband who once used to work out but now he has a "soft belly"--the guy was a freaking sniper during Desert Storm, what the hell is wrong with this woman? Did she think he would love for her to put that in the book?? For someone so hyper-sensitive, she's actually an insensitive lout, and no one's feelings but her own ever seem to matter. Further, her story is told with such a severe lack of emotion, and just drones on and on, you have to try to put a little feeling into it yourself--and YOU'RE not getting paid to do it. In a book some have referred to in reviews as describing an "incestuous" relationship with her identical twin--and granted, some of this is a whole hella weird--I can understand the grief, the years of grief, and many of the actions of this sometimes just sick with bereavement, other times just plain nuts, woman. You know, of course, that Keith Richards was only joking about smoking his father's ashes, but this woman, along with the many other things she did with her sister's ashes, mixed some in with her eye makeup and brushed it on her lids. I can understand this, and so much of this, in so many ways, wacked as it is, but Christa Parravani is just a total bitch, and that causes problems for me. And no. Your sister dying is NOT a reason, no matter what, to cheat on your husband--and then do it over and over and over again. And then ask him if you had cancer would he still leave you. And though she's so hugely despondent, and tries several times to kill herself, she still comes across as a self-centered, self-indulgent, cold wretch. Parravani claims that after years of taking enough mega doses of Valium to kill an elephant, she overcame her addiction to it in five days. And the only bad effect over those days was that her bones hurt and she was freezing in the summertime. Really? Really?? No. It doesn't work that way. Not physically, not mentally, but remember--she's better than you, so of course it was just a drop in the bucket for her. Christa Parravani carries on several times about having very little money, yet most of her actions make you wonder just exactly what was going with that, because...she doesn't tell you. She supposedly has no savings, couldn't hold down a job, yet she travels all over the world, has tons of clothes and shoes, pays rent...sponges off boyfriends; THAT seems pretty clear. The writing is stilted, particularly in the way the author refuses to write plainly, because it's apparent she considers herself a literary genius--and a literary snob. No one is this book is likeable. Not even Cara. Not even Jedediah, though he comes close. The timeline is nonexistent, making for constant confusion and yet poorer reading. You'll just have to decide for yourself whether or not you want to take on this massive volume of mind fuck.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    Wow. It was graphic. It was heartbreaking. It was depressing. It ended on a hopeful note. And the basis of the story is my worst nightmare. As an identical twin myself, I could understand the closeness - the SAMEness - that the author feels toward her sister. I've shared the author's experiences of picking out the same item at a store even when not together and longing to have my twin with me as I traveled someplace new (despite having my wonderful husband there with me). I know what it's like t Wow. It was graphic. It was heartbreaking. It was depressing. It ended on a hopeful note. And the basis of the story is my worst nightmare. As an identical twin myself, I could understand the closeness - the SAMEness - that the author feels toward her sister. I've shared the author's experiences of picking out the same item at a store even when not together and longing to have my twin with me as I traveled someplace new (despite having my wonderful husband there with me). I know what it's like to have very few memories of my formative years that are independent of my twin, and as I recount my childhood memories, it always comes out as a collective "we" experience instead of "I". I could relate to the desire at the end of college for the need, the longing, to be my own person, independent of my twin, and then when I had gotten my wish, desperately wanting her back. I have felt insecure going places alone without having my twin beside me. And as I read about the moment where she finds out about her sister's death, the grief was palpable to me. I wept as I imagined myself in the same situation - not necessarily the same type of tragic death and circumstances, but simply at the loss of the one who shares my identity, a part of my soul. It was heart wrenching. I can't imagine having to work through that grief. But I was relieved to find that there was hope at the end of the tunnel. That there might be for me, too.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    Can I just say that I'm a little tired of the trend for memoirs to end like fairy tales? So many authors pour their heartbreaking stories out, and I'm more than full of empathy to appreciate them, but why do they all feel like they have to wrap their stories up into pat little wonderland bows at the end? I don't believe them for one minute. Life is not like that. It continues to rise and fall with the good, the bad and the ugly. So while I liked this tale of what it is like to lose your twin, es Can I just say that I'm a little tired of the trend for memoirs to end like fairy tales? So many authors pour their heartbreaking stories out, and I'm more than full of empathy to appreciate them, but why do they all feel like they have to wrap their stories up into pat little wonderland bows at the end? I don't believe them for one minute. Life is not like that. It continues to rise and fall with the good, the bad and the ugly. So while I liked this tale of what it is like to lose your twin, especially to something as troubling as a drug overdose, I can't imagine that all that trouble the author experienced with her own difficult childhood, drug abuse, lying and cheating, etc., simply disappeared when she met and married the perfect man and had his baby. I know the book has to end somewhere, but is there no caution? No leftover residue? No concern that dysfunction might rear it's ugly head again?

  21. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Shattuck

    It's rare that a book leaves me speechless. I don't know where to begin. While it was a pretty linear narrative as memoirs go, there were enough gaps, things alluded to but never directly said, that my more rational side kept asking questions as I read. Finally, I understood that I was experiencing the book in much the same way the author had lived her grief and that helped me let go of my need for her to explain every single thing. I can't figure out how best to sum up the experience of reading It's rare that a book leaves me speechless. I don't know where to begin. While it was a pretty linear narrative as memoirs go, there were enough gaps, things alluded to but never directly said, that my more rational side kept asking questions as I read. Finally, I understood that I was experiencing the book in much the same way the author had lived her grief and that helped me let go of my need for her to explain every single thing. I can't figure out how best to sum up the experience of reading the book, other than to say it took me over completely without gutting me. I have a feeling it will stay with me for a long while. (P.S. The chapter that's a transcript of her chat with a psychic was so touching, it made me cry. And hope.)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    I carried this book everywhere, and it has certainly lodged itself inside of me. Such a full, wrenching, despairing, furious yet loving book. Perfect.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mary Blye Kramer

    How it must feel to lose a sister, your only sibling, your identical twin. Parravani writes with an openness and beauty and rawness that sucks you in and won’t let you go until you’ve devoured the final page. I loved this book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie (the nerdy princess)

    I am an identical twin. When I first heard about this book, I HAD to read it. Of course, my library only had one copy and I sat on the waiting list for about 2 months before this book became available. I knew it was going to be a sad/ hard book to read because I knew I could relate to the book even though my twin and I are still alive and neither one of us suffer from drug use. There were moments that did make me tear up because I could never, NEVER think about not having my twin around. I canno I am an identical twin. When I first heard about this book, I HAD to read it. Of course, my library only had one copy and I sat on the waiting list for about 2 months before this book became available. I knew it was going to be a sad/ hard book to read because I knew I could relate to the book even though my twin and I are still alive and neither one of us suffer from drug use. There were moments that did make me tear up because I could never, NEVER think about not having my twin around. I cannot even go 1 day without hearing from her without freaking out. Her is a memoir written about a pair of identical twins Cara and Christa. They were closer than close. They slept in the same bed back to back all through childhood; they invaded each other's marriages, kind of in a jealous possessiveness. Christa tells the story of her sister's death and her own resulting breakdown. Cara, the author's twin was a very confident young woman. She expected good things to happen to her, for example, she entered the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes, and even made sure to tie balloons on her mailbox so Ed McMahon would be able to find her house when she won. Things changed in her early 20's when she was raped in a hideous way while walking her dog in the park. She lost her self completely and turned to drug abuse and other risky behaviors to help cope with her pain. Five years later Cara dies from an accidental overdose and Christa's world ends. When Christa lost Cara she lost a piece of herself. She did not know how she could possibly live without her, being alone, being twin less. Christa starts on a self-destruction path of starving herself down t0 85lbs. Becoming addicted to pills, and even tried to overdose a couple times just like Cara. Christa felt if she would follow in Cara's footsteps it would either bring Cara back or bring her to Cara. Christa writes about all of our worst fears, except they really happened to her.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    I would find it hard to find someone who after having read this book, didn't feel moved. With that being said, however, its very clear that the author is still struggling immensely with her loss, and that a few more years of reflection could have possibly produced something more fruitful. I want to hear more about Christa's recovery and her new life, living with her husband in the aftermath of her "worst years." I wan to ask what is it like being with someone who didn't know that part of you? An I would find it hard to find someone who after having read this book, didn't feel moved. With that being said, however, its very clear that the author is still struggling immensely with her loss, and that a few more years of reflection could have possibly produced something more fruitful. I want to hear more about Christa's recovery and her new life, living with her husband in the aftermath of her "worst years." I wan to ask what is it like being with someone who didn't know that part of you? And what about Jeremiah, and "D"? One thing I found difficult to deal with is the fact that Christa acknowledges that her partners essentially kept her alive for the years she went off into the deep end, but there does not seem to be any gratitude, or empathy to what they were going through. There are brief portions of kindness, but the angst and hatred and inability to deal with life overshadows that tenfold. Included in the text, there are a lot of situations that are hard to relate to if you are not a drug addict, sexual assault/domestic abuse/eating disorder victim, or experienced grief. Do not venture to try and understand these things from the author's words. She is not writing this for you to understand, she is writing it for herself to understand, and while I can sympathize with that, the book is frustrating to read at times for someone who has not lived the author's life. With all of that being said, the stories were outstanding. The one that stuck out to me most was when she wanted to kill herself on the plane ride back from Rome and she met an unknown woman who talked her out of it. "She sat beside me and cut the food on my dinner tray into tiny pieces. She buttered my bread and asked the attendants to bring water and hot coffee. The woman nodded and listened. She listened until the plane landed and I had lived. " (196)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I think I am in a non-fiction phase. The other day at the library I grabbed, "Brain on Fire", "Her" and "Proof of Heaven", which I am currently reading. I practically inhaled "Her". I thought the title odd, since the author describes being an identical twin as being both people at the same time. "Her" implies objectivity, and there is none in this book. Three-quarters of the way through this book, it appears that there is no redemption for the author, Christa, the surviving twin. Instead, there a I think I am in a non-fiction phase. The other day at the library I grabbed, "Brain on Fire", "Her" and "Proof of Heaven", which I am currently reading. I practically inhaled "Her". I thought the title odd, since the author describes being an identical twin as being both people at the same time. "Her" implies objectivity, and there is none in this book. Three-quarters of the way through this book, it appears that there is no redemption for the author, Christa, the surviving twin. Instead, there are steady themes of self-destruction, affairs, anger, denial, and self-blame. I can only guess that these are almost natural themes to expect. I am not a twin, nor have I had a sister who passed away young, but I loved being an eyewitness to this drama....family members unable to cope, drama, divorces, affairs....these are not part of my day-to-day life. But I loved the way the surviving twin describes her own descent into addiction and madness, only to find relief and rescue at the end. Coincidentally, I learned yesterday that an old friend, a twin, is dying, and I spoke to his twin brother. These guys were my teachers, my soul-mates, my saviors, and I always expected them in my life. I did not recommend this book to the surviving twin; he is not a reader, and is very self-reliant. He has talked to people about what happens when a twin dies, and he is balanced and ready. I hope I can find ways to be supportive.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Leslye ✴

    This is a memoir about identical twin sisters. One is bent on self-destruction and the other seeks a more balanced life. Strangely, after the "wild" sister dies, the "normal" sister begins to take on her twin's persona, complete with drug abuse, promiscuity and emotional chaos. Ultimately she does get her act together and you have to admire her courage for climbing out of such a deep hole. The writing is beautiful, but the book zigzags back and forth chronologically, which can be confusing. And o This is a memoir about identical twin sisters. One is bent on self-destruction and the other seeks a more balanced life. Strangely, after the "wild" sister dies, the "normal" sister begins to take on her twin's persona, complete with drug abuse, promiscuity and emotional chaos. Ultimately she does get her act together and you have to admire her courage for climbing out of such a deep hole. The writing is beautiful, but the book zigzags back and forth chronologically, which can be confusing. And of course the book could be difficult to read at times...grief isn't pretty. I found that some of the stories went nowhere or had no point, but it's a memoir and the author is allowed to wander and tell the story as she remembers it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jeannine

    Probably cathartic and necessary for the author to write this after she suffered the terrible loss of her twin sister to a drug overdose but a complete mess for the reader. The author doesn't do a good job of drawing the reader in, setting the stage, painting a picture. She throws everything she has at the reader all at once - drugs! sex! divorce! - and the effect for the reader is like opening a stuffed closet and having all the contents, including the bowling ball on the top shelf, crash on you Probably cathartic and necessary for the author to write this after she suffered the terrible loss of her twin sister to a drug overdose but a complete mess for the reader. The author doesn't do a good job of drawing the reader in, setting the stage, painting a picture. She throws everything she has at the reader all at once - drugs! sex! divorce! - and the effect for the reader is like opening a stuffed closet and having all the contents, including the bowling ball on the top shelf, crash on your head. Couldn't get past page 27.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I love this book. I love it so much that I have to give it 5 stars even though the ending fell into the cliched saved-by-a-man trope. You meet "your person" and all of a sudden you sleep well every night and no longer have any of the problems you did before (or this is how easy Parravani made it sound). Man rides in on a white horse... Anyhow, I'm glad she's happy and hope things are excellent in her life. I really do. The ending just seemed hurried/too easy/not as honest as the rest of the book I love this book. I love it so much that I have to give it 5 stars even though the ending fell into the cliched saved-by-a-man trope. You meet "your person" and all of a sudden you sleep well every night and no longer have any of the problems you did before (or this is how easy Parravani made it sound). Man rides in on a white horse... Anyhow, I'm glad she's happy and hope things are excellent in her life. I really do. The ending just seemed hurried/too easy/not as honest as the rest of the book. Despite this, I highly recommended it. It's the work of a lifetime.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Best memoir I've read in a long long time. Best memoir I've read in a long long time.

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