Book Review: The Identicals, by Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand novels are not only essential to vacation, they ARE my vacation. She is one of the few authors I can say whose entire collection I own and have read. (Although I’m always a year behind because I wait for the paperback). Even though many of the storylines are recycled and mixed into something new, there is something about her writing that makes each character and each plot fresh and unique. I guess there’s just something about reading about overprivileged (mostly) white people living on an overpriced (beautiful) island that helps you escape!

The Identicals is about, you guessed it, identical twins Harper and Tabitha Frost, who have been estranged since the death of Tabitha’s young son. Harper lives on Martha’s Vineyard with their father who has just passed away, and Tabitha lives on Nantucket with her daughter and their cold, ultra conservative mother. A series of circumstances causes the twins to switch islands, taking over the others’ responsibilities.

As per Hilderbrand usual, the story is told through each twins’ perspective, as well as from Tabitha’s “troublemaker” teenaged daughter, Ainsley. This time, however, she also occasionally writes through the perspectives of the islands themselves to provide an omniscient view. To be honest, I was a little resistant to the addition of Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve grown so accustomed to reading exclusively about Nantucket – the Chicken Box, the beaches, and buckets of chilled Veuve Cloquot. But I quickly adjusted and found the comparison of the “identical” islands as interesting as the comparison of the identical characters.

As always I enjoyed the book and looked forward to the chunks of time I could spend with it on my vacation (just one more chapter, just one more chapter), but I wouldn’t say this was my favorite. I didn’t find Tabitha a particularly sympathetic character because I don’t tend to like characters who blame all their problems on someone else. One such example was when the twins’ parents divorce and they had to “rock paper scissors” to decide which twin went with which parent. Tabitha was unhappy having to live with her domineering mother and blamed Harper for “winning” their dad…but yet she continued to stay with her mother, even working for her company, decades into adulthood when she could have made other choices for herself. I found her a bit spoiled and immature, and her love story a little like….what?

Harper on the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed. She is unconcerned with other people’s expectations of her, and while flawed with a history of missteps and regrets, still a good person who is grounded in a desire to be a good person. One caveat: she calls her mother Mommy. What’s up with that?

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