I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass
As I’ve upped my running mileage (doggedly training for Leadville 100 in 2012!), my book consumption via iPod has increased dramatically. One of my favorite audible treats is to listen to the author read to me … and yet alas, I must confess that the third novel from Julia Glass (who won the 2002 National Book Award with her debut, Three Junes), is a disappointing exception.
As the story of two sisters, the novel is read in turns by Glass and actress Mary Stuart Masterson. Perhaps because Masterson’s reading prowess is so much more convincing and/or perhaps because Glass voices the less sympathetic sister, this recording quickly becomes uneven; that the source is less than successful compounds the annoyance factor.
Louisa Jardine is the older sister, whose comfort level in life is directly linked to her sense of control. She’s the one with the Harvard degree, who trades her own creative struggles for a predictable paycheck with an art magazine, and eventually wields enough power to shepherd struggling artists to superstardom. Clem is four years younger, and forever the free spirit, chasing after wild animals in some barely populated (with humans) landscape in an attempt to save them (and maybe her own self, too).
The sisters’ relationship in the first chapters is tortuously rivalrous (exacerbated by Louisa, tolerated by Clem) as they mature into full adulthood in their 20s. And yet, as they navigate through their intertwined lives, only their sororal bond remains constant while jobs, lovers, other relationships, even their health, ebb and flow through the years.
Possible spoiler alert: A bout of cancer – tragic in real life, a convenient cliche here – deepens the sisters’ need for each other, although not until death (at 33, oh c’mon!) does the relationship finally free (ironic drum roll, please!) the surviving sister to discover contentment and claim joy in her own life.
Perhaps one needs to be a member of the complicated sisters’ club to appreciate this title – plenty obviously have, national bestseller that it is. But comparing it to other sister-stories (stay tuned for Allegra Goodman’s The Cookbook Collector, as an example) through the years, I See moves little beyond the predictable and ultimately flattens out to a just-bearable level of whining buzz.