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'Half': Sharon Harrigan's Debut Novel an Uncanny Tale of Twins

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Sharon Harrigan
Sharon Harrigan

In the novel Half, Sharon Harrigan uses an interesting strategy of a single narrative point of view — a first person plural — for the twin protagonists Artis and Paula as they tell their story about growing up in Michigan and the extraordinary situations involving their father. We follow their lives through adolescence, college, and into their own adulthood. Secrets fill the lives of Artis and Paula throughout these years — and as we will see — explode when they are adults returning to their hometown to attend their father’s funeral.

Highlights from the Interview with Sharon Harrigan

On the sensory imagery details in the novel
I think the visceral quality of really being inside (the twins') bodies as well as in their heads was something intentional, and I wanted it to give the book a mythic quality. I wanted it to be timely in that they're living in our world right now and dealing with things that are very current, but I also wanted there to be a timeless element. And to me, the natural world and the visceral physical quality were things that I wanted that I thought would emphasize that timeless quality. And then also the sense of them, their claustrophobia in a way of kind of being this two-person unit and kind of communicating with these physical gestures, and being so close. They're almost in the same body.

On the mythical qualities of the story
I think the father can be read as a mythic figure for sure, but he can also be read as someone who's in the news every day in our times. I mean, I think there are a number of these kinds of monstrous charismatic men, probably mostly men, but maybe women too, who have these cult-like followings and who are magnetic and who have the ability to gaslight people and are both kind of worshiped and reviled at the same time, or depending on who you talk to. I wanted to be very steeped in our moment in time, but then also to realize that these kinds of people have existed since the beginning of time. And we didn't invent this sort of god-monster. But then I also didn't want him to be a flat character and I wanted there to be a sense of his humanity and a sense of the girls owing what they become to him and being him and becoming like him too, and having to acknowledge that and what they owe him.

On the author's role during the pandemic
I think all authors publishing during the pandemic have had to make a shift, a pivot, online. Online events are great, and there's a possibility of people tuning in from all over the world. So there are definitely some benefits. I've been attending a lot of those kinds of events myself and getting to hear readings that I wouldn't normally get to hear. Of course, I think we've all said that we miss the in-person... there's something about having someone come up to you at the end, and a person gives you a hug or then you sign the book. So that, that in-person contact, I think, is something we all crave... I'm looking forward to the pandemic being over and being able to do some in-person events, but it's been great. I mean, doing podcasts is really wonderful. I've become such a listener to podcasts, too. That's definitely something that I have done more of and I'm so glad to be doing more of them during the pandemic, but, yeah, book festivals and those kinds of things are not quite the same online.

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Yvette Benavides can be reached at bookpublic@tpr.org.