I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.White Bodies by Jane Robins
Published by Simon and Schuster on September 19th 2017
Genres: Fiction, Family Life, Literary, Romance, Contemporary
Format: Electronic ARC
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Callie usually only visits her twin sister Tilda once a month, but Tilda has been inviting her over more often since she started getting serious with her new boyfriend Felix. Callie is thrilled to be included in her sister’s life. At first she finds Felix beguiling, but she begins to see signs that he’s abusive and controlling. Her once vibrant sister seems to be withering away, but Tilda refuses to entertain Callie’s concerns. Callie joins the ControllingMen.com forums for support, but the forum members are intense and she ends up getting in over her head. Her concerns about Felix are suddenly nullified when thirty-two-year-old Felix suddenly dies alone in his hotel room, just weeks after his and Tilda’s wedding. The cause of death is determined to be heart disease, but Callie thinks the circumstances of his death are suspicious. She’s convinced the police will be questioning her soon.
Tilda is a well-known actress, while Callie lives a quiet life and works at a bookstore. Tilda has always overshadowed Callie, even in childhood. It upsets Callie that people always assume that Tilda is her older sister. She’s been dominated by Tilda her entire life, but she wants to be seen as an equal. In the scenes from childhood, we see Tilda’s subtle cruelty to Callie. It’s obvious that she relishes in Callie’s unconditional adoration. Tilda has always been the stronger of the two girls, but seeing that Tilda could be in danger gives Callie the opportunity to be the rescuer. Callie’s idea of looking out for her sister is so creepy! She obsessively monitors her sister’s well-being and seems to want to literally consume Tilda’s essence. (You’ll see what I mean when you read it. Weird doesn’t even begin to describe it!)
As disturbed as I was by Callie’s behavior, I was also rooting for her! For all her odd quirks, she comes across as a sweet person. Callie has major self-confidence issues and is constantly comparing herself to Tilda. She berates herself for her social awkwardness and “vacant” life. She’s constantly admiring Tilda and Felix’s “fine bones, smooth, translucent skin, and shiny blond hair,” while belittling her own “round pinkish” body. From other characters’ statements, we see that Callie isn’t an objective observer. Callie is consumed by anxiety and has a tendency to catastrophize everything. She sees danger lurking in every corner. I didn’t know to what extent I could trust her perceptions, especially since she doesn’t even seem to trust herself.
The aspects I liked most about this book were the creepy atmosphere, the odd characters, and Callie’s codependent relationship with her sister. I enjoyed the first half, because I enjoyed getting to know the characters and the flashbacks to the twin’s childhood gave me breaks from Callie’s hand-wringing. First-person perspective + a character with a single fixation can be exhausting! I enjoyed the overall quality and atmosphere of White Bodies, so I recommend giving it a shot if you don’t have the same issues with being trapped in an obsessive character’s head that I do. It’s a very quick read and I loved all the strange character quirks! I had an idea of where it was going to go from the beginning, but the winding path that followed led me with no idea of how it was going to get there.
If you preferred the character-focused parts of this book, you might be interested in The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty. It’s a different story and has less popular appeal, but some of the character traits in White Bodies made me think back to it: twins where one outshines the other, the relief Callie feels when trying on new identities, and the meek twin’s psychological reasons for swimming.