Alix Ohlin’s Dual Citizens

My review of Dual Citizens, Alix Ohlin’s novel about mothers, daughters, and sisters, was my first review for Ron Slate’s On the Seawall. Plot- and character-driven novels can be difficult to write about when you’re trying to avoid a plot dump. It took more than one draft (or three) for me to figure out what I wanted to say about this particular book. Fortunately, I found Ohlin’s first-person narrator, a woman named Lark, problematic. I couldn’t decide whether the reader was expected to embrace or question her psychological motivations. Something which bothered me more than it should have. In the final review it didn’t matter. That complexity — of the character’s emotions, motivations and relationships, and their lack of resolution — are what ultimately made Dual Citizens a compelling read.

For my full review, click on the excerpt below.

Sometimes we forget that the opportunity to assert our own identities, outside of the traditional roles of wives and mothers, has been available to women for a relatively short time. And that the definition of motherhood, and all the expectations that cling to it, are only now subject to interpretation. The subsequent question of Lark’s suitability to be a mother is by far the most interesting element in what is otherwise a conventional novel. It is informed by all we know about Marianne and will learn about Robin. But, surprisingly, in a novel that reveals itself to be about the maternal bonds, it is a question nobody asks out loud.