Twin Time: Or, How Death Befell Me
The search for the long-lost family member is a staple of popular culture. Whether it's Luke Skywalker stumbling across (and even swapping spit with) his twin sister in a galaxy far, far away or Montel Williams reuniting a mother and son after decades of separation, family reunions suggest an inherent order to the universe--when families reunite, all becomes right with the world.
The search for lost relatives is also, naturally, the search for oneself and one's personal history. In seeking out her long-lost brother, Mona, the central character of twin time: or, how death befell me, seeks to understand the reasoning behind her mother's decision to abandon her and her father. It's interesting how little time Veronica Gonzalez devotes to Mona's search for her brother, Manuel--the quest takes little more than 20 pages, and the reunion feels more like an afterthought.
This makes perfect sense, given that Gonzalez devotes a majority of her work to the internal psyche of Mona's mother, Mara. An emotionally fragile native of Mexico City, the young Mara escapes a physically and psychologically abusive relationship with her own mother by stealing away with a baker to Los Angeles. Pregnant with twins from another man--a writer, no less--Mara drowns in her own emotional meltdown, distancing herself from the man who rescued her, burying her toes in the ground, and yearning to become a tree. She eventually abandons her family life to live with a hairdresser in London--taking Mona's brother with her.
The psychoanalytic themes continue with Mara, who discovers from her father--on his deathbed, a staple of the long-lost-family-member narrative--that she has a twin brother. Armed with her father's ashes in a zip-lock bag, she wanders into a forest that might be real or might just be a hallucinatory metaphor; the giants, children, and cave-dwelling men she encounters there are perfect examples of how bogged down by dream logic twin time gets. There's only so much internalization you can take before a story becomes a haphazard mishmash of random figures and ominous dialogue (think of a Sopranos dream sequence lasting two hours).
Even still, the climactic reunion between Mona and Manuel in a New York restaurant is certainly affecting, not only because it solidifies our secret hopes for a world in which good things can happen but because it allows us to emerge--finally--from the novel's dense forests of internal ruminations and dreams and take in a few scenes of genuine and, yes, real human interaction.