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Monday, Jan. 11, 2010

Audrey Niffenegger and ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’

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What’s more basic than the need to be known? Best-selling author Audrey Niffenegger asks this question in her 2009 release, Her Fearful Symmetry, which digs deep into various forms of love, including the oppressive closeness of twins and a surprising form of beyond-the-grave intimacy.

Symmetry is defined as balance, but in Niffenegger’s narrative the characters’ elaborate, interconnected relationships do not always result in perfect equilibrium; rather, symmetry provides both a sense of harmony and discord throughout the book. 

In Her FearfulSymmetry, Niffenegger has created a ghost story that is also a coming-of-age account of 20-year-old twins searching for separate identities. It isn’t a “spooky” ghost story, but rather a tragic and compelling tale, one that expresses the human desire to communicate with those we love after they die. The book follows twins Julia and Valentina, semi-normal American teenagers who learn that they have inherited the London apartment of their late aunt. Once they take up residence in England, the twins befriend a series of complex characters and learn family secrets that threaten to destroy the balance of their lives. Filled with quirky personalities that include graveyard tour guides, a crossword puzzle creator with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and a dead aunt who can’t seem to leave her apartment, Niffenegger’s inventive plot comes alive through its details and creative twists. 

Niffenegger is the author of the acclaimed best seller The Time Traveler’s Wife, a surprise hit following its 2003 release that sold more than 2.5 million copies in the United States and United Kingdom. Niffenegger is also a successful visual artist and the author of two illustrated novels. She received training at the Art Institute of Chicago and later earned her MFA from Northwestern University. Niffenegger, a resident of the Windy City, serves as a faculty member at Columbia College Chicago.

Niffenegger will kick off her January speaking tour with an appearance at the Milwaukee Public Library on Jan. 14 at 7 p.m.  This event, sponsored by Boswell Book Co., is free and open to the public.