Title: Beside Myself
Author: Ann Morgan
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Source: Advance copy via NetGalley
Release Date: January 14, 2016
Rating: 4 out of 5
Helen and Ellie are identical twins – like two peas in a pod, everyone says.
The girls know this isn’t true, though: Helen is the leader and Ellie the follower.
Until they decide to swap places: just for fun, and just for one day.
But Ellie refuses to swap back…
And so begins a nightmare from which Helen cannot wake up. Her toys, her clothes, her friends, her glowing record at school, the favour of her mother and the future she had dreamed of are all gone to a sister who blossoms in the approval that used to belong to Helen. And as the years pass, she loses not only her memory of that day but also herself – until eventually only ‘Smudge’ is left.
Twenty-five years later, Smudge receives a call from out of the blue. It threatens to pull her back into her sister’s dangerous orbit, but if this is her only chance to face the past, how can she resist?
Beside Myself is the story of twins and how a childish game gone horribly wrong affects the entire life of one of the twins. One day, Helen and Ellie decide to swap places to tease their mother and other people in their neighbourhood. After fooling everyone, including their mother, Helen wants to swap back. But Ellie refuses. You see, Helen has always been the leader between them and Ellie has lived in Helen’s shadow. Ellie has always been poorly and mentally slow due to a complication at birth. But now, she has the opportunity to live the life Helen has enjoyed. Helen ends up being locked in as Ellie and try as much, she cannot switch back. As frustration and helplessness set in, she starts to develop psychological problems.
Helen (now Ellie) is clearly mentally ill, hearing voices, living in a horrible apartment – which reflects the chaos and confusion in her mind. She is also paranoid and suspicious and sometimes has a hard time differentiating between reality and nightmares.
This dark psychological thriller is very well written and atmospheric and shows what it is like to experience mental illness brought on by dysfunctional family dynamics, social pressure and deception. The creepy premise of this book grabbed me. Reading about twins is always fascinating as they share a bond unlike any other. To be true, I didn’t like these twins but still the it held my interest till the end. Does Helen ever get her life back?