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I cannot resist a book about twins. Maybe it’s the fun of having super cute, almost-five-year-old twins as my niece and nephew. Or maybe my interest stems from my 88-year-old grandfather, born a fraternal twin and the kind of man who casually says things like, “Yeah, that’s a photo of me with a deer I shot using a bow I made myself.” It’s also possible it was just all those Sweet Valley books I read growing up. Whatever the cause, I find twins endlessly fascinating, and I am hard pressed to pass up a book that promises twinny drama.

The twins in Ann Morgan’s debut novel Beside Myself have a complicated relationship to say the least. Helen is the older, stronger, favored twin. Ellie, born after her sister with an umbilical cord around her neck, is slower, quieter, a hapless troublemaker. One day, Helen thinks of a new game the children can play—they will switch places and see how long it takes their mother to notice. She and Ellie change their clothes and hair. Helen urges Ellie to adopt her own mannerisms and patterns of speech. She can’t wait to see their mother’s reaction to this hilarious prank.

Except their mother doesn’t notice. And—surprise, surprise—Ellie doesn’t want to give up the coveted role of Helen.

What was supposed to be a silly diversion for a few hours becomes a waking nightmare for the real Helen. No one believes her when she insists she’s not Ellie. And why would they? Ellie has always had problems. Ellie can't be trusted. Helen is the golden child who has their mother’s ear. If everyone thinks Helen is Ellie, why would they listen to a word of her bizarre story?

Morgan uses alternating timelines to show how the twins’ identity switch affects Helen (now Ellie) into her adult life. She is clearly mentally ill, hearing voices and living in a hoarder’s nest of an apartment, paranoid and suspicious of everyone she encounters. She’s also one of the best-written unreliable narrators I’ve read for some time. It’s hard to tell at the outset what is truly threatening to Helen/Ellie, and what is the product of her mental illness. Her struggles will make you think hard about identity—and they demonstrate what can happen to the mind when others refuse to see us as we are.

This book was my first foray into next year’s releases, and it’s certainly setting the bar high for 2016. Beside Myself had me riveted from start to finish. Highly recommended.

With regards to Bloomsbury USA and NetGalley for the advance copy. On sale January 12, 2016.

Find it at your library!

One of the reasons I write recommendations for the books I read is because otherwise, I wouldn’t remember them. Even at the age of 30, my memory is unreliable at best, full of holes and not to be trusted with the wedding photos.

Sometimes my terrible memory is a boon. Watching movies is always a brand-new experience. I’ll express shock at a plot point, and Adam will say, “You’ve seen this before…” But to me, it’s like Kristen Wiig is tripping balls on an airplane and sneaking into first class for the first time. (Okay, maybe I can call up Bridesmaids in some detail, but it’s a glorious exception.) Am I mad at you? Not for long, probably! I forget about most arguments hours after they happen. (I know for a fact Adam has used this to his advantage on multiple occasions. It might be one of my best qualities as a wife.) In my dotage I’ll surely end up in a locked ward for the feeble-minded, but I will just as certainly not be bothered by it in the slightest, as I will be blissfully unaware of it.

Of course, other times my memory lapses are not as beneficial. When I heard David Mitchell had a new book coming out this fall, my interest was piqued because I remembered reading and LOVING his 2014 novel The Bone Clocks. Rumor had it his new book, Slade House, would have some overlap with The Bone Clocks—not exactly a sequel, but a companion piece of sorts that would provide winking references to the other book that readers of both would recognize. And it’s entirely possible that is the case.

But I can’t vouch for it.

The knowledge that I enjoyed The Bone Clocks is firm in my mind. But all of the details of it—plot, characters, themes, what exactly a “bone clock” is—all of that’s gone now, evaporated into the ether along with locker combinations, birthday parties, and last Tuesday’s dinner. Sayonara.

The good news is, I’m proof positive that you can enjoy this book without having read The Bone Clocks first. Slade House works fine as a standalone novel. And it’s perfect for this time of year—a time-bending haunted house story heavy on sci-fi elements, just literary enough to satisfy the reader snob in me. It begins on the last Saturday of October in 1979 and proceeds forward nine years with every subsequent section, cleverly wrapping up on October 31, 2015. There are creepy twins, a sinister, looming house with an overgrown garden, and a growing list of missing persons.

The book requires a bit of patience at the beginning as the story is gearing up, or at least it did for me. It’s hard at first to know the difference between what is real and what is the narrating character’s flawed perception. It doesn’t help that the titular house has a disorienting, distorting effect on its visitors. If you stick with it, though, you’ll end up with a good little ghost story for your Halloween week. (I think. I finished the book Sunday, so at this point, who knows if I’m remembering correctly.)

With regards to Random House and NetGalley for the review copy. On sale now!