Review: Vanishing Twins: A Marriage by Leah Dieterich

37690295Verdict: Stunning, accomplished, clever.

My rating: 4,5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Memoir, Creative Non-Fiction

Published by Soft Skull Press, September 4th 2018

Find it on Goodreads.

“It’s like we’re the same person. We finish each other’s sentences. This is what we’ve been taught to desire and expect of love. But there’s a question underneath that’s never addressed: Once you find someone to finish your sentences, do you stop finishing them for yourself?”

As long as she can remember, Leah has had the mysterious feeling that she’s searching for a twin–that she belongs as one of an intimate pair. It begins with friends, dance partners, and her own reflection in the mirror as she studies ballet growing up; continues with physical and emotional attractions to girlfriends in college; and leads her, finally, to Eric, whom she moves across the country for and marries. But her steadfast, monogamous relationship leaves her with questions she can’t answer about her sexuality and her identity, so she and her husband decide to try an open marriage.

How does a young couple make room for their individual desires, their evolving selfhoods, and their artistic ambitions while building a life together? Can they pursue other sexual partners, even live in separate cities, and keep their passionate original bond alive? This memoir in fragments looks for answers in psychology, science, pop culture, art, architecture, Greek mythology, dance, and language, to create a lucid, suspenseful portrait of a woman testing the limits and fluidities of love.

Vanishing Twins is a memoir about a marriage – but it is also so much more. It is an exploration of identity and gender, of growing up and finding oneself, of culture and literature, of ballet and advertising. I adored this.

Leah Dieterich frames her story both in ballet and in the science of vanishing twins, using metaphors and literary analysis to construct a picture of her twenties and her marriage. She meets her husband Eric fairly young and gets married to him at an age where most people are still trying to find themselves. Their symbiotic relationship starts to feel limiting and she proposes an open marriage to explore her queerness.

The book is told in (very) short, fragmented essays (one of my favourite styles) that grow to a convincing whole. I love how the author does not try to fit everything into a cohesive narrative, because life just isn’t that way. As she muses on her marriage and distinct memories, she also writes about other things in-between, mostly ballet but also philosophy and art history. I obviously adored this, there are few things that make me as happy as brilliant, clever memoirs. I have said countless times, I love when women unapologetically put themselves front and center in their art and Leah Dieterich does this, impressively so. One of my favourite aspects was the fact that she realizes her tendency to mirror people she is close to – from her sense of style to her haircut. I loved how this was addressed time and time again. It showed the aspects of her lovers that she most felt drawn to and it illuminated the growing distance between her husband and her while simultaneously underlining the bond between them.

There is a lot to admire here: from her clean prose to her insightful analysis of everything between ballet and advertising to art. I found this a highly rewarding reading experience that has me excited for more to come from Leah Dieterich.

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of Soft Skull Press for review consideration. My opinions are my own.

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