Being Whole

The enjoyment I get out of a book or movie is often affected by what else I’ve recently read or watched.*

I just completed The Round House by Louise Erdrich; before that, White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I was struck by the similarities. Both are about minority identity (Native American in one, immigrants in the UK in the other) and coming of age in the 80s. Both manage to skillfully weave humor with tragedy.

But the connection that resonated most with me was that both books are about parts that make up a whole. Both stories feature twins who are separated. The twins in each book are opposites of each other in many ways, and each independent, though incomplete without each other.

It’s not only the birth twins in each book that are incomplete; both books explore the role of close friends as soul mates that complete each other.

And both books explore how we deal with forces beyond our control. Perhaps the inevitability of facing forces beyond our control is why we need soul mates to keep us whole, complex, hopeful, and unpolarized.

* I ran into my favorite instance of this some years ago when by chance I read Stranger in a Strange Land and Another Roadside Attraction in close proximity, while seeing Brazil and Fight Club in the same timeframe. Two elements across the four works attracted me: the presence of an omnipotent character, and the role of the female characters. As the works neatly span four decades, it was fascinating to reflect upon how each work reflected its decade.


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