Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan + a Giveaway

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Ann Morgan's Beside Myself.

It may have been Helen's idea to start the game - switching places with her twin sister Ellie to see if they could trick their mother and others - but when the game was done, Ellie didn't want to go back. Ellie liked being Helen. Helen was the smart one. The pretty one. The one with all of the friends. The one their mother praised. 

The game kept up for years in spite of Helen's attempts to reclaim her identity. And now, when she's tried over and over to rebuild herself and separate herself from her awful past, "Helen" has returned, pulling her right back in. 

Ann Morgan's fiction debut is utterly unputdownable. I know that gets thrown around a lot, but in this case there's just no other word to aptly describe Beside Myself.

Trust me! I tried. I tried to walk away from this book and get on with daily life. I REALLY tried! It was not possible. Not until I reached the end of Smudge's story.

As the tale begins, present day, Helen/"Ellie" has taken to referring to herself as Smudge. She hears voices in her head and lives pretty much in squalor, relying on government assistance for money and support. It's not until her story begins to really unfold that the reader starts to grasp the why and how of Smudge's current situation.

Chapters alternate between Smudge's present and Helen's past, with the past chapters beginning at the game's inception (when the twins are eight). We learn pretty quickly that Helen and Ellie's father is gone but it takes some time for the girls - and by default the readers - to understand that the incident their mother refers to as the "Unfortunate Decision" was actually his suicide. Their mother has clearly been suffering from depression as a result, leaving the girls to fend for themselves much of the time.

And their mother is quite likely the WORST fiction mother EVER! She can't even tell the difference between her children. Not only that, but a big part of Smudge's problem at its core is the difference between the way their mother treated the girls. Twins with very little difference between them, the real Ellie is treated as the slower sister with a family story about being caught in the umbilical story pulled out as the blame any time she does anything "off." We the readers believe this to be true in the beginning as well, though it quickly becomes clear that this is very much not the case. Smudge/Helen herself never even notices until she experiences it herself as "Ellie."

The truth is that Helen was thriving until Ellie took her place. After the switch, Hellie (as Smudge calls her) is the one who thrives with Smudge left in the cold.

Again, worst fiction mother ever.

Beside Myself is a bit dark. Not terribly graphic, but one that deals with some very uncomfortable issues. It's the kind of read that gets you thinking: through Smudge's eyes we see exactly how identity, assumptions, and bad parenting can shape a person. Hers is not a pretty story but it is a compelling one to be sure. (And UNPUTDOWNABLE! Seriously, don't start this one at bedtime!)

Rating: 4.5/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Ann Morgan and her work you can visit her website here. You can also follow her on Twitter.

And now for the giveaway: to enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, February 1. Open US/Canada only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Kay said...

I am hearing some good things about this book. Most have said that it wasn't quite what they thought it would be at the outset, but was a good book regardless. And your review has sealed the deal for me, Becky! Need to read it - me, I mean.

traveler said...

Thanks for your great review which caught my interest in this novel. Sounds enthralling and intriguing. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Literary Feline said...

I don't know why, but there's something about the premise of this one that gives me the shivers. I can't even imagine. This sounds like a great book. Definitely one I will have to check out.

Dan K said...

Sounds like a fascinating story. Thanks for the giveaway

Anita Yancey said...

I've always wondered about twins trading places, so I'm very interested in reading this book. It sounds just wonderful. Thanks for having the giveaway.

Linda Romer said...

Beside myself sounds like a good read ♡ Thank you

Kimberly V said...

I've read a sample and am now dying to find out what happens. I'm glad to learn that the book isn't too graphic about some of the disturbing parts.