My Sister and I by Sean-Paul Thomas
A young teenage girl and her psychotic twin sister must grow up hard and fast in the unforgiving Scottish Highlands as their father - a sick and twisted, violent man, obsessed with the end of the world - teaches them how to survive out in the wild with no one to rely on but themselves.
Jeezo, I love a bit of dark depravity fiction, but this was absolutely merciless.
Imagine one of those mental guys you meet in the pub, the ones with the unsettling glint in their eye that tells you they would have absolutely no problem taking you outside and stabbing you for a laugh. Imagine that guy colder, lonelier, more sadistic, less human. Imagine that guy with two twin girls he’s training up to become just like him. You just wouldn’t want to, but Thomas will make you.
The narrative here is what gets me the most. Written in first person, from the perspective of the gentler twin, it’s all thoughts and descriptions, with a lack of dialogue. This made the unfolding of the plot all the more terrifying; being unable to tell how the more violent sister was going to react next was utterly disquieting.
There’s a particularly fast pace here, which was excellent. The girls are no sooner released from some form of ‘survival training’ nightmare before being plunged into their next woeful task. The appearances of the clearly mentally ill father are sporadic, frightful, and completely concerning. His beliefs, his upbringing, and his treatment of his daughters, all point towards something we hope we’ll never encounter in our own lifetimes.
It says a lot about our parents, and the people they bring us up to be - that age old nature vs. nurture debate which is destined never to be solved. Thomas hints subtly that we are all products of our parents’ design, but that outside factors can intervene, and in each of us is a true sense of right and wrong, regardless of what we’ve been taught.
Thomas also forces us to consider the lengths we would go to to survive. He gives the girls impossible situations to escape from, and it’s with shame I admit I simply wouldn’t make it. Thank god my da is the type who will wash my car every weekend and tap me money, instead of sending me out into the wilderness to fend for myself.
My only criticism would be that I felt the finale was rounded up far too quickly, with some loose ends in there I wanted tied up (I won’t go into detail as that will mean spoilers). Or maybe I just wanted it to last longer.
You don’t get many horror novels set in the Scottish Highlands, and this one from Thomas was perfect. Thank you so much for allowing me to read this.