Author Christa Parravani on life after losing an identical twin

Christa Parravani
Christa Parravani (Credit Nina Subin)

In the gripping memoir “Her,” Christa Parravani describes what it was like to grow up alongside – then lose to a drug overdose – her identical twin. And she begins with a startling statistic: after a twin dies, the surviving twin’s life is immediately at risk. The hauntingly honest tale of Parravani’s destruction details why.

Beginning with memories of her sister and their single mother, their lives are all later forever changed when her sister, Cara, who used to call Christa “her,” is brutally raped while walking her dog. For the first time, Christa can no longer share in her twin’s experience. She is unflinchingly honest as she works through the aftermath, even wishing to be attacked to be able to better understand the unraveling of her sister, who masks her pain through drugs, eventually turning to heroin.

When her sister dies, Christa is haunted by seeing her daily when she looks in the mirror, and even when she hallucinates. In her attempts to understand her sister’s spiraling (which starts by eating one of her pills, found wedged in a crack on the kitchen floor) she follows in her footsteps, losing her marriage and nearly her life.

She told Metro about using the book as a way to crawl out of that space – to pen the memoir, she incorporated some of her sister’s writings, found under her bed in a Tupperware container.

Was it strange to try and explain having a twin, something that has always been familiar to you but that most others cannot understand?

It was a challenge for me. Being a twin, it isn’t an unusual experience, but for everyone else, it’s completely unusual. What I needed to do was figure out what normal might feel like and go from there, and try to jump off and explain what that closeness was like. … I decided the best way to do that was to tell the story of our love for each other.

How did you decide when to use Cara’s writings?

When something would get really difficult for me, it felt too emotional or I’d gotten to a place where I felt like I couldn’t go on because I was exhausted, I was sad or I just kind of plain missed her, I thought, here’s the moment to allow Cara into the book. In the beginning of writing, she was appearing a lot. As time went on and I got more confident in my abilities as a writer and I got further from the grief, I found I needed to rely on her less and less.

Did you make a decision to be so unflinchingly honest? Was this part of the healing process for you? It seems like you held nothing back.

I wrote the book as if no one would ever read it. It was sort of a love letter to my sister. It was a way to tell her that I loved her and not to be forgotten. I was writing to her, and I had never imagined that there would be people reading it. In order to write a book that tells truths that are necessary, you have to forget about embarrassing yourself.

Do you ultimately feel you understood your sister any better because of going through much of what she did?

I hope so. This book allowed me to have this honest relationship with my sister that the rape had not allowed us to have in life. I saw her beauty, as far as her kindness. Cara was boundlessly kind. It was hard for me to be able to understand that when she was alive, because she was unraveling so quickly. … Through my breakdown and the grief I endured losing her, I missed her so much that I really found myself turning into the kind of woman that she was. I think that what happened to me is that the closer I came to my sister through writing this book, the farther I was from her in my real life. I was able to shed those qualities through writing. I think I realized at the end of this process that my sister was saving me, even though she wasn’t here any more.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @reporteralison.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Mayor announces public housing improvements

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem on Wednesday, calling for the scaffolding to come down at NYCHA complexes across…

National

Peter Theo Curtis: American released by Syrian militants…

An American writer freed this week from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria spoke briefly outside his family's Cambridge home Wednesday of…

Local

Bratton defends 'broken windows' work as NYPD support…

Sixty percent of those polled said they support the "broken windows" theory approach popularized by Commissioner Bratton since his first term in the 1990s.

Local

Transit changes for Labor Day weekend

The MTA is adding additional service Friday for New Yorkers getting out of the city for the long weekend. On Friday, Aug. 29, 27 additional…

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

Season 11’s top four dancers gave their final performances before America’s Favorite Dancers are announced next week.

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

MUSIC The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees…

Going Out

5 things to do this weekend in NYC

The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees expected. David Guetta,…

Television

'Full House' might be relaunched with some of…

A new "Full House" might be in the works.

NFL

Mario Manningham on the bubble as Giants play…

Former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham hopes his second go-around with Big Blue doesn’t end with Saturday’s final cut day.

NFL

Source: Stephen Hill 'faces a battle' to make…

A team source says Stephen Hill, who has battled injuries and poor performances during his first two years, is no lock to make the Jets’ final roster.

Sports

Serena Williams leaving legacy of talented American women…

It seems only a matter of when, not if, Serena Williams will win her 18th career grand slam championship.

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…

Sex

The 10 types of people you meet online

Does it ever seem like online dating profiles tend to get a little repetitive? It turns out you are not the only one to have…

Home

Labor Day essentials

Whether you’re soaking up the sun on the beach or barbecuing in the park here are some must-haves for your end-of-summer bash.