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Split, Swati Avasthi

2010/04/21

Now I have to start lying. While I stare through the windshield at the building my brother lives in, I try to think up a good lie, but nothing comes to mind… my face will tell half the story. For the other half, I’ll keep my mouth shut and lie by omission. Someday I’ll fess up, tell him the whole deal, and then he can perform a lobotomy or whatever it takes. But right now, I just need Christian to open his door, nudge it wider, and let me stay.

Jace is sixteen years old when he leaves home, drives across the country from Chicago to Albuquerque, and shows up on his brother’s doorstep, where Christian and his girlfriend Mirriam are just about to celebrate their first anniversary. Over the next few weeks, Jace and his brother begin to unpack what it means to come from an abusive family. Jace enrolls at a local high school and gets a job at a nearby bookstore, while Christian tries to figure out his role as an older brother suddenly living with a little brother. Mirriam, who had no idea Jace even existed, pushes her way into Jace’s life, causing fights with both brothers, but also helping them to better understand one another. Meanwhile, Jace plots to contact his mother and get her away, while Christian worries about their father coming after them once again. But Christian doesn’t realize the secrets that Jace himself is hiding — until they get a call from their father.

This is an extraordinary novel about abuse and the effects it has on those who witness and experience it. Avasthi captures the confusion, frustration, fear, and anger which Jace experiences, as well as painting a vivid picture of those who interact with him — Christian, Mirriam, Dakota. There is no pat ending to the story — much as the reader hopes for it — and that makes it all the more realistic. A gritty, well-written debut novel.

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