TITLE: No Two Persons
AUTHOR: Erica Bauermeister
GENRE: Literary fiction
PUBLISHER: St. Martin’s Press
PUBLICATION DATE: May 2, 2023
TWs: grief, suicide
No Two Persons is a story that explores the power of a remarkable book and its profound impact when it meets a reader precisely when they need it the most. This is a love letter to anyone who loves to read. The story is told through a series of short stories featuring 10 characters and has a full circle ending that will leave your heart feeling bittersweet once it’s over.
Usually, when I take a long time to read a book because I’m busy working or doing something else, I tend to lose interest in it. However, with No Two Persons, every time I came back to it, the insightful writing and rich characters pulled me back in without fail. It reminded me why I love reading so much.
One book. Nine readers. Ten changed lives.
That was the beauty of books, wasn’t it? They took you places you didn’t know you needed to go…
Alice has always wanted to be a writer. Her talent is innate, but her stories remain safe and detached, until a devastating event breaks her heart open, and she creates a stunning debut novel. Her words, in turn, find their way to readers, from a teenager hiding her homelessness, to a free diver pushing himself beyond endurance, an artist furious at the world around her, a bookseller in search of love, a widower rent by grief. Each one is drawn into Alice’s novel; each one discovers something different that alters their perspective, and presents new pathways forward for their lives.
Together, their stories reveal how books can affect us in the most beautiful and unexpected of ways—and how we are all more closely connected to one another than we might think.
Let’s take a quick look at the characters we meet in this book…
The writer’s book, Theo, forever changed the lives of many people from different walks of life. I enjoyed getting to know each character and seeing Theo through their eyes. Each chapter was unique, interesting and kept me invested in everyone’s story.
Over time, some of the characters’ stories overlapped, and it was delightful to see how they intertwined. Despite having many characters, I never felt overwhelmed because each chapter weaves its own thread, forming a beautiful story.
The writing in this piece is absolutely beautiful. It is intimate, thought-provoking, and pleasantly insightful. It reminds me of the writing in “Hello Beautiful” by Ann Napolitano. Like Napolitano, the author is able to convey a lot with just a few words, and I have always admired writers who can do that. The writing is sharp and encourages you to see things from a new perspective. I have so many highlights from this book that I could make an entire blog post about it.
Here are some of my favorites (more can be founds in the quotes section below):
No Two Persons is heavily character driven. So for those who love character development like myself, there is no shortage of it. As each character is introduced, more of Theo’s story is revealed. These revelations are effortlessly tied into the individual stories of each character. The pacing is perfect, with Theo’s revelations in sync with the characters’ journeys.
And the full circle moment at the end was absolutely brilliant! I didn’t want this book to end. But when it did, I was smiling from ear to ear because it’s a comforting story that tugs onto your heartstrings.
No Two Persons by Erica Bauermeister is a perfect blend of carefully crafted characters and impactful writing. I highly recommend it to everyone, especially book lovers, as it captures how a single well-written story can move you. This is one of my top reads of 2023, and I encourage you to give this one a try.
I guess I come at it a bit differently,” he said, settling back in his desk chair. “I think each story has its own life. In the beginning, it lives in the writer’s mind, and it grows and changes while it’s there. Changes the writer, too, I’d bet.” He smiled at her, then continued. “At some point it’s written down, and that’s the book readers hold in their hands. But the story isn’t done, because it goes on to live in the readers’ minds, in a way that’s particular to each of them. We’re all caretakers of the stories, Alice. Writers are just the lucky ones that get to know them first.”
…the ones who couldn’t look you in the eye. Sometimes it was because they were hiding things. Sometimes it was because they couldn’t.
Because wasn’t that what art was all about, in the end? Mentally shoplifting your way through the world around you, the thoughts inside you? Looking for the thing that makes it all click. Makes it all start. Makes it all worthwhile and whole and good again.
Because he loved her; that much he knew—stunned by her smile and how gracefully life rested upon her. There were times when he yearned to spoon his soul into the warmth of her belief that people were essentially good, and things would always turn out okay.
She knew the lesson that moment taught you—that everything you believed was yours, all the cinnamon toast and hugs and campfires, was just something you’d visited, not something you were guaranteed as a generic human being, a special human child. No. You were the ant on the counter, heading for sugar. The mouse on the way to the cheese. Your time was short and real, and even if you survived, you would know now that there was always a hand, metaphorical or not, waiting above you.
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen was another of his family’s sayings, and while there was genuine affection in the words, what they didn’t seem to understand was that not everyone liked to cook.
“In humans, our understanding of any one moment is made up of all the messages sent by our nerves and muscles and eyes and ears. It takes a while to get them all to the brain, so in the end our now is actually always about a half second after the fact.”
Maybe she even heard that extra .002, every day. And that, perhaps, was the difference between the two of them, he thought. Science heard that fragment of a second and wondered how to make it fit into a whole. Fiction wondered what hearing it felt like.
Anger was a propulsive form of energy; that’s what made it so attractive. It was easier to use it to blast off, fly away, rather than stay and pick up the necessary weight of another’s point of view.
Historians say a war started on such and such a day, but that war really started years before—when a man got on the wrong train and met a stranger, or a boy wasn’t loved by his mother, or a girl said no. And that war didn’t stop on its end date, either. Its effects kept going, down through the children and grandchildren, but they didn’t understand where it all was coming from because historians care more about the rocks than the river.” She stopped for breath. “You see?” she asked. “Okay,” William said, although he didn’t, not completely, not yet. “Say for the sake of argument that’s true. Where do novels fit in?” She had looked at him, serious, but then grinned. “They’re the boats, of course.”
Obituaries often referred to the people the deceased had left behind, but that wasn’t accurate, William thought. He was the one who had gone ahead, no matter how hard he’d tried not to. She was the one held in place.
Anyone can love their mirror image; it’s the easiest thing in the world to love what you already know. But how do you love difference as if it’s a part of you?
A child could make you love bone-deep, make you try to see further into another person than you ever thought possible, to understand who they were, what they needed, wanted. But with that astonishing depth of love came the realization that no one was doing the same for you. And that could make you lonely.
Books spoke to specific people for specific reasons, and it had everything to do with where they were in their lives.
“I just don’t think life gets tied up with a bow very often.” No kidding, Madeline thought. Even when they tell you, standing there in their white coats, you still won’t know. Not the when. Not the how. And definitely not the after. “Maybe that’s why people want it in a book,” she said. It was basic marketing—give readers what they don’t get or can’t have in regular life. A safe brush with evil. A flaming romance. Certainty. Nola thought for a moment, then shook her head. “I guess I just like the idea of possibility. Like an invitation, not an answer, you know? It gives you something to think about later.”
Wasn’t that what marriages were, in the end? The ability to hear love in an exhalation, to see frustration in the twitch of a finger, forgiveness in a single letter of the alphabet.
….. grief is not a stalker but a stowaway, always there and up for any journey.
Their communication like neon signs with most of the letters burnt out. What got filled in was only what made sense to you. What fit the story you already knew, the story you needed, whether or not it was any good for you.
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