Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Book Review: Identical Strangers by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein

At one time or another most young children question whether they might have been adopted. And who hasn’t wondered what it would be like to be a twin? These issues and their profound effect on identity are superbly dealt with in Elyse Stein's and Paula Bernstein’s fascinating memoir of their adoption story - Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited.

In 1968, Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein were adopted as infants by separate and loving families. Each girl had grown up always knowing that she had been adopted and for most of their lives neither one had much interest in searching for her birth mother. In 2003, when Elyse was 35 years old she decided to contact the adoption agency that had handled her adoption and request non-identifying information regarding her adoption. She was not prepared for the news that she received. The information about her birth mother had been sealed and was not accessible. However she was told that she had an identical twin sister who had also been adopted.

As Elyse (and eventually Paula) began to unravel the mysteries surrounding their adoption, they learned that they were part of a study conducted by two influential psychiatrists who were studying the nature/nurture debate by separating twins given up for adoption. At this point, the two women temporarily abandoned their search for their mother in order to focus their investigation on determining the conclusion of the twin study and to attempt to locate other twins separated by the study.

The story of how Elyse and Paula finally meet and how the fact of their separation has profoundly effected their sense of self, identity and family is told from each woman’s point of view. Their stories are told with great honesty as each woman comes to terms with the existence of her twin. Interspersed with their personal narratives is information regarding studies on twin science, which offers a glimpse into the reasoning behind their separation.

Identical Strangers is an amazing story of how two women are forced to examine their sense of self, identity and family and how they come to terms with the extraordinary circumstances of their adoption, separation and reunion.

I would give Identical Strangers 4/5 stars (I really liked it).

Image from Google Images


Sandy said...

Another fascinating subject for me. Gets back to my Nature vs. Nurture questions. I will have to add yet another book to the TBR pile!

Beth said...

Thanks for the review! I added it to my "to read" list on Goodreads.

Shelley/Book Fanatic said...

I enjoyed this book as well. I thought it was fascinating how much alike they were even though they were raised seperately.


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