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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
One-Two is a psychological drama written by Igor Eliseev. They were born as conjoined twins; there had been talk of letting them die at birth, words whispered in the delivery room and its environs. The two infant females survived; however, the difficulty of the delivery and the shock of the news about her babies led to the mother's mental instability. Yielding to pressure from the hospital administration, she signed a certificate of death, and the father was notified of the fact while he was traveling on business. Rootless and without family, the twins were experimental subjects for the institutes of pediatrics and, later, traumatology, then they were sent to a boarding school. Faith would fondly remember those years spent there -- she and Hope felt like normal kids there. Being out of the institutional settings of their early life was refreshing. Their windows had no bars, the school was set amidst forests redolent with the scents of pine and moss, and they had Lizzie as a friend. For Hope, "Lizzie was an embodiment of fireworks bursting with thousands of emotional colors and shades never seen in one person before."
Igor Eliseev's psychological coming of age novel, One-Two, is set during the 1980s and 1990s as the time of the Soviet Union passed and present-day Russia was in its infant throes. Eliseev's tale is heady, compelling and magical. His twins are conjoined, but two separate and sharply distinctive personalities share that one liver which the doctors claim makes separation an impossibility. I couldn't help but feel for the more intellectual Faith whose love of reading enables her to rise above the challenges and restrictions of her existence, even as the more worldly Hope scowls and acts bored while Faith is lost in those worlds of words.
As I read One-Two, I was reminded once again why I’ve gravitated towards the great Russian authors throughout my adult life. And reading One-Two, I felt again in the presence of greatness, a word that's often trivialized yet so apt here. I delighted in the glimpses of Gogol's humor present in the nicknames and descriptive imagery that flourish throughout this work: the strange little man who seems like a flat pumpkin, and the supervisor, Compass Legs, who enslaves the twins. Within these pages lurk all manner of beings, some awful and stinking, others dispensing kindness, wisdom and even love. Witnessing the life Faith and Hope live is a humbling experience. Seeing the romance implicit in the world is a bright star in this profound and brilliant novel. One-Two is a modern Russian master work with just a hint of Robertson Davies' influence shining through here and there. It's an astonishingly good read, a rich and heady draft of life seen through the perspective of a perceptive and lonely young woman who never quite loses the ability to dream or love. One-Two is most highly recommended.