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Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins…
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Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited

by Elyse Schein, Paula Bernstein (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
I enjoyed this book true story about identical twins who are separated when they are babies and are reunited as adults. They explore the complicated emotions they experienced as they met and got to know one another, sometimes with brutal honesty. This book gets you thinking about nature vs. nurture, and the authors intersperse their story with discussions of what psychologists have learned about twins. I also got a kick out of the fact that a good deal of the story takes place in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood, where I spent a weekend in October 2009 during a cousin's wedding weekend. ( )
  JillKB | Apr 4, 2013 |
The book is about the emotions and adjustments made by a pair of identical twins adopted separately when they are reunited. Ultimately, we learn that nature is responsible for the strangest things - gestures and field of career among them - but that identical twins are completely different in personality and that they themselves seek to find similarities even when they deny it.

I was good friends with an identical twin at one time. I didn't know she was a twin and it did cause some friction when the girl I went to lunch with Monday to Friday would do no more than nod her head to me at the weekend. My friend had pinched her twin's boyfriend, had a baby and married him. They separated within months and he went to back to live with the twin who was his original girlfriend. The twin got pregnant and both girls gave birth within three months of each other. The father went back to his wife. The twins saw each other only when they were dropping off or picking up their children from their mother who babysat them during working hours but were otherwise scarcely on speaking terms (as you might imagine).

Having the same father, the twins are half-sisters, having sisters for mothers, they are first cousins, but since the mothers DNA was 100% alike they are also, genetically, full sisters. The irony is that the little girls look almost exactly alike and one wonders if they are doomed to repeat their mothers' awful rivalry.

The twins in the book, who are both Goodreads authors, think they are more alike than they actually are. As with two artists fulfilling the same commission with the same clay, the resulting statue will show the different vision of each. We are too complex for it to be otherwise. ( )
  Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
My blog post about this book is at this link. ( )
  SuziQoregon | Mar 31, 2013 |
Twins Paula and Elyse are given up at birth by their 28-year-old single mother, and psychologists connected with the adoption agency decide they will be part of a twin study. Basically, it is a scientific study of nature v. nurture. Twins and even triplets will be separated soon after birth and grow up in different familes and will be observed yearly for similarities and differences. While the girls are still babies living in their foster home, they cease to develop at the same rate and are dropped from the study. The girls are stil adopted out to separate familes and do not discover that they have a twin until they are 35 years old. The book is the story of how Elyse and Paula forge a relationship and how difficult that is and then their investigation of how they came to be separated, and all of that interspersed with interesting facts about twins and the twin study. The middle portion was a little dry, but I hung in there wanting to find out what happened with these two women and what they discovered about their origins. ( )
  CatieN | Oct 26, 2011 |
I don't know about you, but when I was growing up I desperately wanted to be an identical twin. So special! So...well, "unique" isn't the right word, but you know what I mean. So attention-getting. I knew some non-identical twins and that always seemed like the worst of both worlds - you have a sibling, but they don't look like you so you can't fool people or freak them out, and what if you're not the pretty one? (Ashton Kutcher has a twin brother who not only looks nothing like him, he's unusually unattractive.) When I got to know some twins well, I was impressed by their apparent mind-meld and ability to communicate with each other in shorthand. Who wouldn't want that?

So imagine finding out in your thirties that you had an identical twin but you were adopted by different families because some psychologist thought it was more healthy. That's what happened to the authors of this book, when one of them started researching her birth mother. They found out that they'd been part of a study to determine if mental illness was hereditary or environmental, because they were identical twin daughters of a schizophrenic woman.

One of them's a bourgeois stay at home mother in Park Slope, the other lives in Paris in a tiny apartment and supports her dreams of working in film by tutoring English students. What a wild duet! But like a lot of twins raised separately, they eerily have things in common: they're both interested in film and both have written about it, both were the editor of their school newspaper, both suffer from depression, etc.

The most interesting part of the story for me was how they built their relationship with each other. They start out thrilled that they've found each other and are instantly madly in love. They introduce each other to their families and know they'll be in each other's lives forever. After a while, each of them starts resenting the other - how weird it is to see the other's overly dramatic expressions on their own face, the pressure of having this new intense relationship. Despite their joy at being reunited, each of them had a settled life before this intimate stranger entered it. I can't help but wonder if the Parisian twin, who's constantly house-sitting in order to get out of her small apartment, and borrowing from friends, tried to get the Park Slope sister to give her money and a place to live when she came to the US.

It's a quick but fun read about a situation the rest of us can only imagine. I'm glad they either had a good ghost writer or were skillful enough to tell their story well. ( )
  piemouth | Sep 27, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elyse Scheinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bernstein, PaulaAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Snoijink, BobTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812975650, Paperback)

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. What she found instead was shocking: She had an identical twin sister. What’s more, after being separated as infants, she and her sister had been, for a time, 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 her 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, taking their tentative first steps from strangers to sisters, Paula and Elyse are left with haunting questions surrounding their origins and their separation. And when they investigate their birth mother’s past, the sisters move closer toward solving the puzzle of their lives.

Praise for Identical Strangers:

Winner of a Books for a Better Life Award

“Remarkable . . . powerful . . . [an] extraordinary experience . . . The reader is left to marvel at the reworking of individual identities required by one discovery and then another.”
–Boston Sunday Globe

“[A] poignant memoir of twin sisters who were split up as infants, became part of a secret scientific study, then found each other as adults.”
–Reader’s Digest (Editors’ Choice)

“[A] fascinating memoir . . . Weaving studies about twin science into their personal reflections . . . Schein and Bernstein provide an intelligent exploration of how identity intersects with bloodlines. A must-read for anyone interested in what it means to be a family.”
–Bust

“Identical Strangers has all the heart-stopping drama you’d expect. But it has so much more–the authors’ emotional honesty and clear-eyed insights turn this unique story into a universal one. As you accompany the twins on their search for the truth of their birth, you witness another kind of birth–the germination and flowering of sisterly love.”
–Deborah Tannen, author of You’re Wearing That?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:10 -0400)

Elyse had always known she was adopted, but it wasn't until her mid-thirties that she searched for her biological mother. She was not prepared for the life-changing news: she had an identical twin sister. Not only that: she and her sister, for a time, had been part of a secret study on separated twins. Paula also knew she was adopted, but had no inclination to find her birth mother. When she answered the phone one spring afternoon, her life suddenly changed. As they take their tentative first steps from strangers to sisters, Paula and Elyse are also left with haunting questions. As they investigate their birth mother's past, they begin to solve the puzzle of their lives. Interweaving eye-opening studies and statistics on twin science into their narrative, they offer an intelligent and heartfelt glimpse into human nature.--From publisher description.… (more)

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