And so, at the age of seventeen, the sister play a game of rock/paper/scissors to decide who “wins” and gets to go with Billy and who “loses” and has to go with their mother. Decades later, the outcome of that game casts a long shadow over the lives of the estranged twin sisters.
When their father passes away, the sisters are forced back into each other’s orbit. Harper lives on Nantucket, where she’s done everything from landscaping to package delivery to being an unwitting drug mule. The last position has granted her a bit of infamy on the island (and the ire of the drug cartel she unwittingly helped bring down), but not nearly as much as the latest news that she’s having an affair with her father’s married doctor.
Tabitha lives on Martha’s Vineyard with her rebellious teenage daughter, Ainsley and works in her mother’s sinking boutique (based on her mother’s line of clothing and an infamous dress designed years before). Referred to by an ex-boyfriend as “a piss-poor parent,” Tabitha blames Harper for everything that has gone wrong in her life, including the death of her infant son, Julian, fourteen years ago.
If there were ever two people in need of a fresh start or a chance to see how the other half lives, it’s Harper and Tabitha.
And the two do get that chance in Elin Hildebrand’s The Identicals.
After their mother falls and breaks a hip, Harper heads to the Vineyard to watch Ainsley and run the failing boutique. Tabitha initially heads to Boston to help their mother, but soon finds herself in Nantucket, renovating their late father’s house and falling for the man in charge of the remodeling. Switching points of view between Harper, Tabitha and Ainsley, The Identicals teases out bits of the complex history of the Frost family. The death of Julian looms large over the story and Hildebrand wisely allows the mystery to build until it’s finally revealed what happened fourteen years before.
Along the way, she allows us to gain insight into how each character views not only herself but those around her.
And while the sisters may not necessarily understand each other fully, they’re more alike than you might think from the first page.
Twins switching lives stories aren’t necessarily a new thing. But Hildebrand uses the trope to help build her characters over the course of the story. At times, I found myself actively rooting for and against each sister and the situations each one faced. The most compelling story is that for Ainsley as she struggles to find who she is and who she wants to be.
At times laugh out loud funny and at times lump in your throat serious, The Identicals was a fun summer read. And while there most of the major plot threads are resolved by the time the final page is turned (or in my case the last disc runs out in my car’s CD player), there are still some lingering questions. Just like real life – not everything is neatly wrapped up in a pretty bow.