2009, 404 pages
Her Fearful Symmetry follows American twins Valentina and Julia as they take up residence in an apartment (or, to be less American, a flat?) in London left to them by their recently deceased Aunt Elsbeth, herself the twin of their mother, Edie. While living in the apartment, Valentina and Julia get to know their neighbors: Robert, Elsbeth's former lover; and Martin, who suffers from a case of obsessive compulsive disorder so severe he is unable to leave his apartment. Though dead, Elsbeth is a very real presence in the apartment that Valentina and Julia inhabit.
On these nights in the cemetery Robert stood in front of Elspeth's grave, or sat on its solitary step with his back against the uncomfortable grillwork. It did not bother him when he stood by the Rosetti grave and couldn't feel the presence of Lizzie or Christina, but he found it disturbing to visit Elspeth and find that she was not "at home" to him. In the early days after her death he'd hovered around the tomb, waiting for a sign of any sort. "I'll haunt you," she'd said when they'd told her she was terminal. "Do that," the had replied, kissing her gaunt neck. But she was not haunting him, except in memory, where she dwindled and blazed at all the wrong moments. (p55)I guess I should say up front that I was incredibly disappointed with this book. I loved The Time Traveler's Wife and had read so many rave reviews about Her Fearful Symmetry, so even though the plot summary didn't particularly appeal to me at first, I decided to read it anyway. I'll admit I had pretty low expectations coming in, but even so I was left frustrated and dissatisfied.
I had a hard time getting into the story, partly because I was skeptical coming in, partly because I initially found it difficult to sympathize with most of the main characters. Around the middle of the book I found that I was beginning to enjoy reading about the twins, and, to a lesser extent, Roger, but as the events unfolded in the last part of the novel I became more and more frustrated. I thought that some of the plot twists in the latter part of the novel were a little absurd and their conclusions did not really fit together with the build up in the earlier part of the novel. The ending did not give these characters the closure that I was rooting for for them and that I felt they deserved, and I was left feeling extremely dissatisfied as I read the final pages.
I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the plotline that revolved around Martin, the OCD upstairs neighbor. Niffenegger did a good job of making making me sympathize with and root for him right from the start, and I always looked forward to the chapters where he was featured. I also enjoyed Niffenegger's writing style for the most part, but it was jarring when I came across words like "LOL" and "k" when the twins were speaking.
Upon finishing the book I was a bit bewildered, as so many bloggers seem to have enjoyed it, while I ended up regretting having picked it up at all. It did draw me in and was a quick read, but I was so dissatisfied by the ending that I'm not sure it was worth the initial effort I had to put in to get invested in the story in the first place. I don't mean to discourage anyone from reading this book, as many seemed to have enjoyed it, but I'd love to hear the perspective from someone who's read and enjoyed this book, to try to understand the appeal and what I seem to have missed when reading it.