Twin sisters Adina and Tovah Siegel are very different. Despite having been close as children, their relationship as teenagers is icy. They’re on divergent paths: Adina plays the viola and has aspirations to study music, while Tovah has her sights set on Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Their home life is often difficult, as their Ima (Hebrew for “mom”), suffers from Huntington’s disease, causing her to experience intense mood swings, hallucinations, and memory loss.
On their eighteenth birthday, Adina and Tovah each take the test to determine whether they’ve inherited the Huntington’s disease gene. Only Adina has. This sets Adina off on a path of reckless self-destruction. She questions her faith as well as her future, and pursues a relationship with her twenty-five-year-old music teacher. The news also causes Tovah to reevaluate her future. As Ima’s disease progresses and secrets come to light, the sisters’ strained relationship comes to a head.
The author’s use of dual first-person narratives allows her to add layers of complexity to the character and events. Both Adina and Tovah’s individual stories and struggles unfold in depth, making their intersecting narratives even more powerful. The Siegels are Conservative Jews and their mother is Israeli, so their Jewish life is an important feature of the story. Hebrew words as well as Jewish holidays and concepts are woven into the narrative. The book deals with serious issues including illness, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and mortality.
This is an emotional read and is recommended for ages 14 and up.