“Holland and Niles Perry are identical thirteen-year-old twins. They are close, close enough, almost, to read each other’s thoughts, but they couldn’t be more different. Holland is bold and mischievous, a bad influence, while Niles is kind and eager to please, the sort of boy who makes parents proud. The Perrys live in the bucolic New England town their family settled centuries ago, and as it happens, the extended clan has gathered at its ancestral farm this summer to mourn the death of the twins’ father in a most unfortunate accident. Mrs. Perry still hasn’t recovered from the shock of her husband’s gruesome end and stays sequestered in her room, leaving her sons to roam free. As the summer goes on, though, and Holland’s pranks become increasingly sinister, Niles finds he can no longer make excuses for his brother’s actions.” – Amazon’s summary
This story is many things at once. It is a look into the quaint life in an old New England town, which is the most peaceful (or maybe only peaceful) aspect of the story. I’ve always been charmed by the New England states, and this small town in Connecticut sounds like a place one would go to get away from it all and start anew. It is also a look into the many different aspects of grief caused by loss – including the loss of innocence. It is a tale of pain, anguish, and madness, but also of how far a person could go to protect their family.
The story points the reader in several different directions deduction-wise, in regards to what is really going on in this family. It could be a simple good twin/bad twin dynamic. Then it may be a haunting, or possession. Or it is all psychological. The last twist thrown at you in the last few pages leaves you wondering, is that the actual truth or is this also some convoluted delusion? I would certainly warn anyone who would be interested in this book that you get no clear answers; there is always a lingering, “or maybe…”
In regards to the writing style itself, and the bonds between characters, I found it to be captivating. The family draws you in with all their eccentricities, especially the twins (of course). Their dynamic, Holland the devil / Niles the angel doesn’t always fit quite right. If Niles was the angel everyone thought him to be and the narrator at first leads you to believe, why does he allow such depravity from Holland? Why would he stick up for him, lie for him, and continue to go back to him? His reactions to Holland’s acts always fell short for me. It was always just a fleeting “Oh how horrible of him,” and then 5 pages later he’s wondering where Holland is – wishing he would show up so they could play together. There was never any indication of denial from Niles; he knew very well that Holland absolutely did every horrible thing his mind accused him of. He was in denial of something much bigger – a truth he could not bring himself to acknowledge – and where I believe this tolerance for Holland’s depravity really came from.
There were many innocent victims in this story, not all casualties. The blame for their deaths or sufferings really cannot be pinpointed on any one person. That’s how I feel it is in real life tragedies as well. There’s always so many more factors in play than the singular human that committed a heinous act. Although it would be easier to point a finger and wrap things up nicely, there are always questions – the biggest one always being “Why?” More often than not, we are never given an answer.