Something about Her

August 19th, 2013 by Steve Lehman · No Comments · Uncategorized

Have you ever had to periodically stop listening to an audiobook because it was so intense you just needed a break? Probably not all that uncommon with good thrillers. But with a memoir? That’s what my wife and I had to do on a recent road trip during which we tuned in to Her by Christa Parravani. Riveting throughout, Parravani’s story of her life as an identical twin before and after her sister Cara’s decline into drug use and untimely death is loaded with incidents that are nothing less than harrowing. Such as the details of Christa’s own descent into addiction and destructive promiscuity following Cara’s death. Such as the moment by moment description of Cara’s savage rape—related unflinchingly by Christa from Cara’s point of view.

Her is read by the author with an even, almost understated intonation. One reviewer was critical of this, claiming the author’s seeming dispassion dulled the emotional impact of the story. I couldn’t disagree more. For me, Parravani’s steady modulations give the reading a powerful emotional authenticity, as if what you’re hearing emanates directly, sentence by sentence, from some deep inner locus where anguish and regret and trauma and love are smoldering in memory. To have read it any other way might have come off as mere performance, turning genuine feeling into simple melodrama. However, by relating this excruciatingly intimate story in her own measured, unwavering voice, a story in which no one is spared, not their distant father and controlling father-surrogates, not their well-meaning but peripatetic mother, not Cara, who suffered so much as she spiraled to her destruction, and especially not herself, Parravani forces upon the listener the uncomfortable sensation of eavesdropping outside a confessional. And that uneasiness is exactly what ratchets up the intensity so much that at times you simply have to hit the pause button while you catch your breath.

Her is lyrically written, gut-wrenchingly honest, profoundly moving, cathartic and redemptive, and, ultimately, hopeful. Or as Booklist’s starred review put it, “raw and unstoppable”—which pretty much nails Parravani’s narration as well.



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