cover image Her: A Memoir

Her: A Memoir

Christa Parravani. Holt, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9653-8

A photographer and identical twin tells the intimately delineated, raw story of her beloved sister’s overdose on heroin and untimely death at age 28 in 2006. Emotionally attuned and protectively close to each other since growing up in Schenectady to parents in a rocky marriage before their strong-willed mother essentially raised them on her own, Parravani and her sister, Cara, were obsessed with the other for much of their lives: critical of their shared but subtly different looks; jealous of the other’s boyfriends, then husbands; and certain that the twins would die somehow together. In her mid-20s Cara was violently raped in the woods near her Holyoke, Mass., home, and spiraled into drug abuse (e.g., prescription drugs, heroin) from what was eventually diagnosed as “post-traumatic stress disorder with borderline features.” Her self-destruction imposed an enormous toll on the author, who felt responsible for her sister and riddled by guilt: “I feel like her life is in my hands,” Parravani said to her then-husband. In between Cara’s stays in rehab and mental hospitals, the author took numerous photographs of her sister and herself together as part of her growing artistic and teaching oeuvre, and in acutely observed passages (also alternating with Cara’s diary entries), the author describes her eerie attempts to create for the camera identical likenesses. Cara’s death sent the author into her own drug-induced death wish, before she pulled back from the brink; her memoir is a finely wrought achievement of grace, emotional honesty, and self-possession. (Mar.)