What initially drew me to the novel is that it takes place on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket – both of which I briefly visited while on vacation to Cape Cod this summer. It was fun to read about places and areas that I recognized from my trip like Oak Bluffs and the gingerbread houses.
The Identicals is about twin sisters Harper and Tabitha. Although they were close as children, their parents divorce when they were 17 separated the sisters and they have not been close since – estranged at times even. Following their parents divorce the two went to separate colleges but they also each had to go with one of their parents. They would visit the other parent at the same time so didn’t get to really see one another. Harper lived with her laid-back electrician father on Martha’s Vineyard. Tabitha lived with their more high-class fashion designer mother on Nantucket. The book offers a lot of metaphors about the similarities and differences of the islands and the sisters.
When the story begins, the girls are nearing 40 and have barely spoken in 14 years. Their father has just passed away and neither of them are particularly happy with how their lives are going. Harper has been having an affair, and is in love, with her father’s doctor. Tabitha is spends her days working at her mother’s boutique and having trouble with her teenage daughter, Ainsley. After their father dies and everyone on Martha’s Vineyard finds out about Harper’s affair, she welcomes the opportunity to escape to Nantucket to watch over her niece while her sister goes to Martha’s Vineyard to oversee renovations of their father’s house so they can sell it.
The story explores the sister’s own individual journey’s trying to find themselves and what they want to do next in life. It also explores why the sister’s aren’t close anymore and how they find their way back to one another. Each chapter is from the perspective of either Harper, Tabitha, or Ainsley. It doesn’t really retell each scene from another point of view but just what’s going on with that particular character. The storyline is constantly moving forward. I enjoyed the book and I really wanted to know what happened to Tabitha’s son because they kept alluding to his death but wouldn’t say what happened! Until the end towards the end that is.
I found Harper to be likeable and relatable. Sure, she made some questionable choices in her life but everyone makes mistakes and it’s not her fault she fell in love. She also was really sorry for any pain she caused others so I felt like she was someone you could get behind. Tabitha on the other hand is a different story. I didn’t like her that much. She was the kind of person who blames everyone else besides herself. It’s easier for her to assign blame to everyone, even if no one’s at fault, and holds grudges for years. She also did some not so cool things when she was upset with her sister that made me seriously question whether she’s even a good person or not.
I mentioned that Ainsley is initially described as troubled, but I must note that Ainsley is actually not a bad character and is not a bad kid either – most of the troubles Tabitha has with her is due to her hands-off parenting approach. It’s part of Tabitha’s personality and also one of the reasons I didn’t find Tabitha to be likeable. Tabitha is very “woe is me” – like everyone is out to wrong her. She’s suffered some tragedies in life but she can’t pick herself up and move on. Instead she’d rather dwell on it and hate everyone (even those who are blameless).
When Harper first arrives to take care of her teenage niece, Ainsley, it’s obvious the differences between the two sisters and really highlights how Tabitha is not the typical mother. This is from Ainsley’s point of view after greeting her aunt and realizing her aunt made her dinner: “It’s still surreal to see her mother peering down on her, only now her mother is smiling, friendly, happy to see her. Only now her mother isn’t her mother.” “Ainsley’s eyes fill with tears. Someone is here, taking care of her. Someone loves her. Ainsley reaches for a pecan, blinking her eyes, then she quickly wipes away the tear that falls.” I’m sure Tabitha loves her daughter, but she spends so much of her energy being negative that she hasn’t taken care of her child like she should have. You’ll have to read the book to see how and if Tabitha transforms!
Overall, it was a nice read and without giving too much away the ending isn’t disappointing, but I would’ve liked another chapter to really offer a more substantial conclusion to the story. The ending felt rushed. It reminded me of a tv movie where the end happens in the last 2 minutes to end on time and you’re like “that’s it?”.
I’ve already started reading my next book, but with work starting back up my rate of reading is bound to slow down. I’ll hopefully be back soon with my next review!