three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
38-Jan-Feb-2009
By: 
Julia Glass
user_rating: 
0
Award Year: 
0

A-I See You EverywhereWinner of the National Book Award in 2002 for her debut novel, Three Junes (2002), Julia Glass returns with her third work of fiction (after The Whole World Over, 3.5 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2006), a semi-autobiographical exploration of the complex emotional bonds between sisters.

The Story: "Ever notice how sisters, when they aren’t best friends, make particularly vicious enemies?" In the summer of 1980, studious, hardworking Louisa Jardine has returned from New York for the funeral of her great-aunt—not to pay her respects or to comfort her family but to make sure that her younger sister Clem doesn’t get all the good pieces from the jewelry collection bequeathed to both sisters. Clem, a free-spirited college biology student, braces herself for the routine accusations and disapproval that will typify Louisa’s visit. Glass chronicles Louisa and Clem’s contentious relationship over 25 years as the two polar-opposite sisters grapple with jealousy, distrust, pettiness, and love—the infuriating, unconditional kind that only sisters know.
Pantheon. 304 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0375422757

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"It is the understanding that each is irreplaceable to the other, and that this emotion is in tension with the insecurity that underlies the bickering, that gives I See You Everywhere wings. … Glass excels in dealing the reader a balanced hand, both women are at times admirable and likable and, at other moments, not so nice." Robin Vidimos

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"There is a constant danger that this story, with its recurrent theme of feuding between the sisters, will become monotonous. But such is the power of Glass’ writing that we glide along with her." Bharti Kirchner

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"Nowhere are the ebbs and flows, the complex and often ugly nuances, the bonds and the breaks between sisters more achingly or more piercingly explored. … And while neither woman is what one could term lovable or even particularly likable much of the time, Glass is so skilled and nuanced a writer that you find yourself rooting for both." Donna Freydkin

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Rich, intricate and alive with emotion, the book reconstructs the complicated bonds between Louisa and Clem, making neither sister a villain, neither a hero. … There’s more authenticity to Louisa’s voice than to Clem’s, which is understandable since Clem’s is projected and assembled, while Louisa’s is drawn from the author’s picture-perfect internal archive." Liesl Schillinger

Chicago Tribune 3 of 5 Stars
"The alternating viewpoints should afford us the opportunity to triangulate the truth and come to a more complete understanding of Louisa and Clement. But often their versions compete with rather than complement one another, and inconsistencies between their stories blur the focus." Valerie Laken

Rocky Mountain News 3 of 5 Stars
"Glass does an extraordinary job of making Louisa and Clem tangible; as though each one were telling their side of the story up close and in person. … I See You Everywhere is really a poignant approach to the well-worn, yet complex topic of sibling rivalry with a sad and very sudden, illogical twist." Bianca McCullough

Cleveland Plain Dealer 2 of 5 Stars
"Each section, told in alternating voices, takes up another love affair, and while Glass can be superb on physical details, none of the men is especially memorable. Louisa suffers; Clem grows cynical. Yet they continue to hover in their own holding patterns, and a reader grows impatient, if not a bit bored. And? So?" Tricia Springstubb

Critical Summary

Julia Glass narrates this intimate, portrait of a strained sibling relationship through alternating, first-person linked short stories—a technique Glass used to great effect in Three Junes. This approach explores each sister’s complicated feelings while revealing just how little they truly understand each other. But some critics complained that the gaps between vignettes resulted in key characters and plotlines disappearing unexpectedly without resolution. Glass is impartial in her portrayal of the sisters, and critics commended her ability to render both characters as vibrant and genuine, if not always likable. Though critics were divided over the ending, most appreciated Glass’s attempt, in graceful, elegant prose, to answer the question: Can we ever really know another person, even our own "genetic alter ego"?

Also by the Author

Three Junes (2002): Award Star National Book Award, 2002. In her vivid, compelling debut novel, Julia Glass depicts three generations of the Scottish McLeod family over the course of three pivotal summers.