Book Review: Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Seperated and Reunited

OK, first I have to apologize.  I have my comment moderation settings so that the first time you leave a comment with a new email address I have to approve it before it shows up.  After that, your comments immediately post.  I used to get an email each time a new comment needed moderation, but for some reason that feature isn’t working at the moment.  So, imagine my surprise when I log on to find a whole ton of comments sitting in moderation, waiting for my approval.  You’ve all been approved now (unless you’re a nasty spammer) and I appreciate hearing from all of you!  Now, on to my book review…

Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Seperated and Reunited
By Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein
288 Pages
Finished 2/28/08


Elyse Schein had always known she was adopted, but it wasn’t until her mid-thirties while living in Paris that she searched for her biological mother. When Elyse contacted her adoption agency, she was not prepared for the shocking, life-changing news she received: She had an identical twin sister. Elyse was then hit with another bombshell: she and her sister had been separated as infants, and for a time, had been part of a secret study on separated twins.

Paula Bernstein, a married writer and mother living in New York, also knew she was adopted, but had no inclination to find her birth mother. When she answered a call from the adoption agency one spring afternoon, Paula’s life suddenly divided into two starkly different periods: the time before and the time after she learned the truth.

As they reunite and take their tentative first steps from strangers to sisters, Paula and Elyse are also left with haunting questions surrounding their origins and their separation. They learn that the study was conducted by a pair of influential psychiatrists associated with a prestigious adoption agency. As they investigate their birth mother’s past, Paula and Elyse move closer toward solving the puzzle of their lives.

In alternating voices, Paula and Elyse write with emotional honesty about the immediate intimacy they share as twins and the wide chasm that divides them as two complete strangers. Interweaving eyeopening studies and statistics on twin science into their narrative, they offer an intelligent and heartfelt glimpse into human nature.

Identical Strangers is the amazing story of two women coming to terms with the strange and unbelievable hand fate has dealt them, an account that broadens the definition of family and provides insight into our own DNA and the singularly exceptional imprint it leaves on our lives.

I first learned of this book a few months ago while sitting in the pharmacy waiting for a prescription to be filled. There was a magazine sitting on the table, and the page it was opened to had a little blurb about the book. Thinking it looked interesting, I made a mental note to add it to my hold list at the library. A few days later, I heard some friends on a twins board that I visit talking about the book. Apparently it had been featured on a nationwide morning show and when I finally got around to putting it on hold, I was quite a ways down the list! I’m not sure I can confidently say that it was 100% worth the wait, but it was definately an interesting read. Given that it’s not a fictional book, it was really amazing to read some of the similarities noted between identical twins and triplets that were seperated at birth and adopted by different families. The scientific findings behind the nature vs. nurture debate were really interesting to learn more about. I really liked how honest each of the authors were about their feelings as they went through the experience of being reuinted with one another and the search they did for their birth mother. It was fun to see their feelings for one another evolve over the course of time.

Having just finished The Thirteenth Tale, which also features identical twins, my new read was particularly insightful because of some of the similarities drawn and the scientific facts behind the genetics and consequences of seperating identical twins. Identical Strangers is not the type of book that I’d be particularly drawn to, so I imagine that having twins myself was a big part of the reason I was eager to read it. It gets my recommendation, but if you’re strictly a fiction reader, you might not find as much enjoyment in it as I did.

2008 Page Count:  2286


3 Responses to “Book Review: Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Seperated and Reunited”

  1. Jenn Says:

    I’m a Jenn too! I came here from Hmmm….

    I am utterly impressed with 10000 page goal for the year and from the looks of it, you are well on your way! You have inspired me to make time in my days to read.

    Thanks for the reviews. I have put The Thirteenth Tale on “To Enjoy” list.

    Take care ~ jenn

  2. Katie Says:

    That sounds really interesting to me. I will add it to my list!

  3. Tammy J Says:

    My brother is reading this book right now and completely enjoying it.

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