Her: A Memoir by Christa Parravani
Here’s another tiny-world overlap that convinces me that some higher power is directing my reading choices: first-time author Christa Parravani is married to Gulf War veteran author Anthony Swofford (Jarhead) – ‘Tony’ in Her – who appeared in the 2008 Oscar-nominated documentary, Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, which was directed by Richard E. Robbins, who recently directed Girl Rising (currently in theaters, so please go!), for which I was the writer wrangler! We really are all so intricately connected, six degrees and less!
I can’t sugarcoat my reaction: Her is a brutal, difficult read. That the audible version is narrated by the author herself adds an even greater immediacy that lingers and haunts.
“I used to be an identical twin. I was Cara Parravani’s twin. I forgot who I was after my sister died,” opens this wrenching memoir of irrevocable loss and excruciating recovery. At 28, Cara overdoses, unable to recover from a horrific rape four years earlier after which her life “unravel[ed].” With Cara gone, Christa saw only Cara when she looked at herself, a “common experience among identical twinless twins.” Still alive, Christa became a “breathing memorial for [Cara’s] lost self,” eliding her own existence in an overpowering search for her missing half.
Born to an abusive father and a mother who took one less-than-supportive partner after another, the Parravani twins found refuge in their own exclusive world. While men came and went, they always had each other, bonded within a tumultuous relationship that left little room for individuality. When oneness is suddenly thrust upon her, Christa flounders violently through self-abuse (starvation, drugs), meaningless relationships that leave her further damaged, and can’t escape the lure of attempting suicide. Her life is a race against statistics: she “… read somewhere that 50 percent of twins follow their identical twin into death within two years. … Flip a coin: Those were my chances of survival.” Her harrowing journey proves as self-destructive as it is ultimately life-affirming.
While both twins were blessed with artistic souls, Christa gives over her own love of words to Cara in college and picks up a camera instead: Christa’s remarkable twin-photographs, called “Kindred,” appear on her website and provide an unforgettable visual enhancement to her memories. Here in Her, by claiming both words and pictures, wholeness finally becomes possible.