Art Beat: Half
What's it like to be an identical twin, so close that you share almost every thought and emotion? That’s the subject of Michigan native Sharon Harrigan’s debut novel, Half (University of Wisconsin Press, 2020).
Harrigan writes about how twin two sisters are essentially one, at first, but eventually split into distinct identities as they deal with the complex dynamics of family.
“It’s about two twin girls that are so close that they are virtually one person,” Harrigan says. “They have the same thoughts, they do the same things, and they speak in one, unified voice in parts one and two of the book. In part three, that voice breaks into half, and that’s really the main, dramatic tension of the book. Readers know it’s going to happen but they don’t know how it’s going to happen.”
Harrigan’s novel was selected by Kalamazoo author Bonnie Jo Campbell as the first runner-up for the AWP Novel Prize. Campbell was a judge for the competition.
“Half is mesmerizing, a bright and inventive novel like no other,” says Campbell. “I was swept away, pulled into the conspiracy that is twindom, with its exquisite sweetness and cruelty. The mystery that propels the story forward artfully reflects the mystery of twindom itself.”
The novel was first written as a short story, which won the Cecilia Joyce Johnson Award from Key West Seminars and the Kinder Award from Pleaides Magazine.
Harrigan says the story was inspired by her close relationship with her brother, even though the two are not twins.
“He’s a year-and-a-half older than me,” she says. “The opening conversation in chapter one is one that we actually had...that we were 'half' years old and still babies. That is something that my brother and I used to say to each other. That’s the seed of the book; it started with that conversation.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Harrigan will be giving a virtual ZOOM reading sponsored by Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo on Wednesday, August 5, from 8 to 8:40 p.m. Those interested can sign up for the reading at the counter at Michigan News Agency, or by calling (269) 343-5958 to get a pass code. Harrigan will read from Half, share family photographs, and answer questions submitted online.
Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.