It sounds like a familiar story: twin sisters, different as night and day, start relationships with the same man that end in disaster. But Jincy Willett’s first novel, Winner of the National Book Award, is anything but predictable. This darkly comic tale, set in a small Rhode Island town, opens on the eve of a storm. As librarian Dorcas Mather reluctantly reads the just-published “true” story of her sister Abigail’s murder of her husband, Conrad Lowe, she compares the written account with her own version of events. Abigail’s preoccupation with the physical stands in stark contrast to Dorcas’ cerebral world, and the two sisters have opposite responses to Lowe’s charm. Lowe is equally fascinated by Abigail’s capacity for self-abasement and Dorcas’ inviolate honor, and turns the images the sisters have of themselves—and of each other—upside down.
Willett is a favorite of David Sedaris, and her sly, humorous writing style is reminiscent of his more serious pieces. But it’s hard to draw comparisons for such an original work of fiction.