I See You Everywhere
Reviewed by Lydia Millet
The fictional palate of Julia Glass, bestselling author of 2002’s Three Junes , is one of dog-breeding women and foxhunts, tony Manhattan galleries and boutiques, European travel and haute-cuisine chefs. In common with Rebecca Wells’s Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood franchise, Glass’s third novel, I See You Everywhere , has female bonding among the landed gentry, a focus on relationships, and devil-may-care, enigmatically charming women of great romantic allure.
Like Three Junes , the novel is a series of vignettes across the years, in this instance from the points of view of two sisters with different personalities. Louisa, the elder, is the steady sister on the lookout for love, while Clem is the younger sister, an adventuring, restless spirit with an unfortunate habit of chewing men up and spitting them out. Their parents, too, resemble those in Three Junes : the mother is obsessed with raising and training expensive dogs on a country estate (this time in Rhode Island instead of Scotland); their father is a good-natured, kindly soul who plays second fiddle to a powerful wife. Louisa, not unlike Glass herself, is an urban woman who inhabits the New York art world and moves from making art (pottery) to writing; Clem, being a wilder sort, has a passion for wild animals and moves around the remoter reaches of the continent as an itinerant biologist to do contract work with charismatic fauna ranging from seals to grizzly bears. It’s not entirely clear how the sisters relate to each other’s livelihoods; Clem seems largely uninterested in art, whereas Louisa alternates between lavishly praising her sister’s work to save animals as heroic and referring to polar bears, in 2005, as “like Al Gore... suddenly all the alarmist rage.”
City and country mouse have a wary, competitive, sometimes antagonistic relationship grounded in affection; they occasionally steal each other’s boyfriends, but are usually there for each other in times of need, up to and including possible drowning, maiming and cancer. Both cook well, though Louisa is the true gourmet. Clem is better in the sack, at least if we take her word for it: as she says in a letter—reminding us, perhaps inadvertently, of the piña colada song—what she likes most in life are laughter, sex, champagne and sunsets. The sisters do have music in common: though both white, they listen almost exclusively to music by black performers, from Billie Holiday to Bob Marley.
I See You Everywhere has a bourgeois, chick lit sensibility, minus the proud vacuousness of the Bushnell set and plus a somewhat unexpected, sad vanishing act by one of the protagonists. It should prove an engaging and intelligent, though not literary, page-turner for sisters who like to revel in sisterhood.
Lydia Millet’s most recent novel is How the Dead Dream (Counterpoint).
Release date: 10/01/2008