Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Inborn Nature vs. Nurturing Choice

Review: Down Among the Stones and Bones by Seanan McGuire


Can identical twins pass through the same doorway, yet still find different paths in life? 

This second book in McGuire's Wayward Children series provides a prequel to the story in the Nebula-award winner Every Heart a Doorway (reviewed in Wardrobe, Rabbit-hole, Rainbow). It is the back-story of two of the first novel's main characters, Jack and Jill. The Wolcott twins, christened Jillian and Jaqueline, begin with roles imposed by their sociopathic parents, long before they ever climb down to the dark Moors on the other side of their wardrobe stairwell.

Each choice these girls make from the moment they step into the mysterious stairwell under the lid of Grandma's trunk has a consequence, and the accumulated choices drive their separate journeys in this vampire- and mad-scientist-ridden underworld.

Lay aside the blood-sucking and dead-raising details, though, and the story is really about gender, and the role of love in human life. It reminded me, in fact, of the conjoined twins Bertran and Nela Korsyzczy in Sheri Tepper's Sideshow

While Bertran and Nela achieved their sexual definition from the hands of a surgeon, their inner development was similar to the Moor-marooned Wolcott twins—even to harboring disparate hopes and desires. The conjoined twins, boy and girl, love each other, even though one dreams of swimming in cool seas, and the other yearns for flight through an endless burning sky.

For the Korsyzczy twins, the initial choice was made for them by a surgeon. For the Wolcott girls, though, enjoined to "Be Sure" before they open their doorway and enter the dark lands under a blood-red moon, every choice will have consequences that further reveal and define them in their new-chosen roles.

The tragic choice of love is not, as Drew Barrymore's Danielle challenges Leonardo da Vinci in Ever After, "A fish may love a bird, signore, but where would they live?" It is that love is messy, a problem for the obsessively-clean Jack. It is that love is self-sharing and fearless, a daunting prospect for the essentially timid, thoroughly selfish Jill. 

And for both twins, whose only experience of love before the Moors was years ago at their Grandmother's hands, there seems little reason to make such a difficult choice... even as they choose.

The choice of gender roles, like choosing to love, is never imposed from without. We make our choice, conscious or not, influenced or un- and we continue to choose. And we can always, each of us, make a different choice.

As long as we live. As long as we don't change too far.