The Orphan Sister by Gwendolen Gross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads: Clementine Lord is not an orphan. She just feels like one sometimes. One of triplets, a quirk of nature left her the odd one out. Odette and Olivia are identical; Clementine is a singleton. Biologically speaking, she came from her own egg. Practically speaking, she never quite left it. Then Clementine’s father—a pediatric neurologist who is an expert on children’s brains, but clueless when it comes to his own daughters—disappears, and his choices, both past and present, force the family dynamics to change at last. As the three sisters struggle to make sense of it, their mother must emerge from the greenhouse and leave the flowers that have long been the focus of her warmth and nurturing.
For Clementine, the next step means retracing the winding route that led her to this very moment: to understand her father’s betrayal, the tragedy of her first lost love, her family’s divisions, and her best friend Eli’s sudden romantic interest. Most of all, she may finally have found the voice with which to share the inside story of being the odd sister out.
My take: The story is an interesting one because it is ultimately about the internal struggle of wanting to belong yet fighting for individuation. I wasn't as much interested in the family conflict as the family dynamics and the way Clementine goes about looking for her other half, as Odette and Olivia have one another.
The story is based upon a set of triplets, now 29 years old. Olivia and Odette are identifical twins while Clementine's egg just happened to fall down the fallopian tube the same month. Clementine always feels like the odd man out, although she shares the uncanny ability to hear her sisters' thoughts and read their moods the same as being identical. They have their private jokes and party tricks and they are definitely related. However, Clementine's rhythm is just a little different. While the twins move into medical school and open adjoining practices, Clementine is still struggling with her own identity. The twins have a double wedding and find themselves pregnant and expecting at the same time. Clementine is still single and fighting sorrow over a loss and figuring out what she wants to be when she grows up.
The family is in crisis. One triplet knows a secret. The other two want to know the secret. The mother is blissfully and purposely ignoring the truth and concentrating on anything else. This is the way she lives her life or at least used to. With Charles Lord no longer lording over the home as his house of cards comes tumbling down, new dynamics emerge due partly to the crisis but also to the new roles the women are entering; mother (the twins), favorite aunt (Clementine), broken man, stronger woman, lost love, found love.
What I particularly enjoyed about the book is the way each character is looking for their "other half." Clementine chooses a college different from her sisters' choice in an effort to differentiate herself yet she yearns to be a part of something bigger. She is immediately taken by a boy named Cameron who, ironically, smells of oranges (Clementine - get it?).
In retrospect, the orphan sister could be any of the characters, as each of them have moments of solitude and feeling cut off from the family. Conversely, each character finds a connection at one time or another.
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That hurts, doesn't it.