Review by Brennan LaFaro
The first thing to talk about with Joshua Chaplinsky’s The Paradox Twins is the epistolary format. I guess it doesn’t have to be the first thing, but it’s what sticks out to me most, so you’re stuck. Chaplinsky cites an old saying early-on—that every story has 3 sides: yours, mine, and the truth. After that nugget gets dropped, it’s hard to ignore that the story is told from three somewhat differing viewpoints, with records sprinkled in and the occasional footnote from the book’s compiler, oddly enough also named Joshua Chaplinsky.
The story revolves around two estranged twin brothers who reunite at their father’s funeral, coming to realize immediately they no longer look alike. What follows sees the two brothers, Alan and Max, settling what to do with their father’s house and legacy. Max is a famous YA science fiction writer, and sees the opportunity to turn the event into his next project. His entries in the book jump back and forth between a screenplay and prose, and while they seem exaggerated and one-sided, we only have two other POV’s to the story to base that assumption off.
Alan’s version of the story comes off as the most grounded, and the one the reader tends to put stock in, for better or worse. Throughout the book, it seems like Chaplinsky knows the reader will trust this voice, as the story does the bulk of its moving forward, especially at the beginning, under Alan’s watchful eye.
The final narrator is Millicent, the woman who lives next door to the father’s house, and was unlucky enough to find the body that sets the story in motion. Her much-needed perspective allows us to see an outsider’s view of both Max and Alan, each the hero of their own narrative. Neither man is without their flaws, some bigger than others, and Millie lays them bare.
The frequent editor footnotes makes the book feel more curated, as opposed to varying accounts being collected and slapped together. Sometimes a smart-ass, the narrator voice reminded me more than a little of Ron Howard’s voice overs from Arrested Development. The reader can’t let it escape their notice, however, that the ultimate story being told is being compiled and edited by someone in an attempt to tell their version of the story. High drama, indeed.
The Paradox Twins, to me, was more about the way the story was told than the story itself. It’s a fast-engaging read, and while some might find the constant shifts in POV or media jarring, it’s what carried me through the book in a short amount of time. If mixed media storytelling, where that element is crucial to the finished product, rather than just a gimmick, is in your wheelhouse, you might find this book right up your alley.