First Person Plural by Andrew Beierle

I finished First Person Plural last night in record time.  322 pages in about 10 days.  That’s pretty good for me since I’m usually a slow reader.

I can honestly say this is one of the best, most well-written, books I’ve ever read.  I was captivated by the two lead characters right from the start, so much that I admit if they were real people I wish I knew them.  Beierle writes with such heart-felt emotion that it was hard not to fall in love with them.  They are Owen and Porter, two conjoined twins who are unique because they basically have one complete body (two arms and two legs), but have two heads and two hearts.  Two very different hearts, as Owen explains.  Porter is straight, and Owen is gay.

They grew up in a well-to-do family and we get a good glimpse at what their childhood was like.  Porter grew up as an all star, outgoing athlete in high school while Owen was more introverted and book smart. Given their unique condition, they become somewhat celebrities thanks to a music career and are treated with normalcy for the most part.  People are shocked when they come in contact with them and either want to laugh or cry from the experience.  Shielded from hatred throughout most of their young lives, they finally experience it “head on” at the beginning of college when Porter is forced to stop seeing his first true love girlfriend at the request of her father. But Porter soon meets another girl named Faith and asks for her hand in marriage.

The story is told from Owen’s point of view, and you can’t help but feel sorry for him even though he wouldn’t want you to.  Thanks to Porter’s dominant personality, Owen is often treated like a third wheel.  Being gay only makes it more difficult for him. The boys literally share the body, this means taking turns and having control of it every other day, including the one penis they have. Sounds odd?  Yes.  But the way it is explained in the book makes absolute perfect sense.  But it’s easy to see why others in the equation may not be able to accept Owen and Porter’s unique way of trying their best to be individuals despite their condition.

When Porter and Faith get married, Owen has to obviously share the marital bed. And when Owen finds himself falling in love with someone at last, it is Faith that stands to become between Owen and his demand for his share of privacy and individuality, ultimately making him choose between his own well-being and his brother’s.

The conflict at hand is pretty obvious.  It’s hard not to think that everyday would be complicated for them.  But the author builds upon it with such intensity and truth, right down to going into great detail about the boy’s sex life  and how each responds to the other. I was both shocked and intrigued. While Beierle steers the reader down a predictable path for the twins, he doesn’t always let you be right.  As a reader, you don’t always get your way and the author definitely kept you guessing which made this a fast page-turner for me.  I didn’t want it to end, but was eager to see how things would play out.

I fully admit it’s an odd little book.  I had trouble just explaining it out loud to others.  It’s one of those where you just have to read it to get it.  Think of how hard it must be to born a conjoined twin.  Beierle even relates to several real-life conjoined twins throughout the book. Then add to it one having to struggle not just for individuality, but for acceptance as a gay man while literally living in the shadow of his straight dominant brother. The emotion and feeling of reading it was unbelievable and will stay with me for a long time to come.  It is definitely a book that I will never forget.

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