A Memoir

By Christa Parravani

Henry Holt.
308 pp. $26

This haunting memoir depicts Christa Parravani’s struggle to survive the death of her identical twin, Cara, from an accidental heroin overdose at 28.

The sisters had formed an inextricable bond against the world, enduring a troubled upbringing with an abusive father and a militaristic stepfather who abandoned them when they were 13. “We shared everything until there was nothing of our single selves left,” Christa writes. All that changed in 2001 after Cara was brutally attacked and raped. The assault destroyed Cara’s life, triggering a deep depression and drug addiction that ruined her marriage and caused her to overdose five years later. Christa, unable to cope with the loss of her sibling, soon found herself emulating Cara’s self-destructive path. “I wanted to chase my sister into the afterlife,”she writes.

Christa’s soul-searching choice to heal herself and separate from Cara was driven by timely acts of kindness from strangers, self-realization and the desire to remember, yet distance herself from, her sister. The story is heart-wrenching, cathartic and hopeful. Seamlessly woven into the text are Cara’s writings, taken from an unpublished memoir, which helped Christa tell their story and, in doing so, conquer her demons.

“Her” is more than a beautifully written memoir or tribute. It’s a powerful and raw love letter to the author’s other half.

— Megan McDonough