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26a    by Diana Evans order for
by Diana Evans
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2005 (2005)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

Without a doubt, hands down, this is the best book that I have read in 2005, perhaps in the last several years. This is not a spoiler, but arm yourself with a box of tissues before settling down to read this fine novel.

Identical twins, Bessi and Georgia, and their sisters, Kemy and Bel, live at 26a Waifer Avenue in England. The four sisters are the results of the union between a depressed, homesick Nigerian mother, Ida, and Englishman Aubrey Hunter. Ida escaped an arranged marriage, only to end up in an unhappy one with Aubrey. Ida talks to spirits, while Aubrey is emotionally distant.

The novel explores the unconditional love and unshakeable bonds of sisterhood, especially the connection between identical twin sisters, who share dreams and secrets, sometimes without having to say anything. The twins even appear in each other's dreams. But there is one terrible secret that Georgia did not share with Bessi. It threatens to tear them apart, and wreaks havoc on Georgia's mental stability.

Weaving mysticism throughout her pages, Evans offers an intimate look into the relationship between identical twins, while treating the reader to luminous prose: 'Home was homeless. It could exist anywhere, because its only substance was familiarity. If it was broken by long journeys or tornadoes it emerged again, reinvented itself with new décor, new idiosyncrasies of morning, noon and dusk, and old routines.'

Evans creates voices that are true and authentic; each character has a distinct personality, and even Ida's Nigerian accent comes alive on the pages. This is an excellent debut, highly deserving of its award, the Orange Prize for New Writers. I will anxiously await more from this talented writer.

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