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Book Review: The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen

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A New York advertising firm promises dedicated Lindsey Rose the vice-presidency of their firm. In The Opposite of Me, Lindsey Rose is about to bring in a huge advertising account — Gloss Cosmetics. At the last minute, Lindsey’s co-worker, who has her own advertising campaign, uses feminine guile, possibly even sex, to sell her advertising ideas to Gloss Cosmetics. It is she who brings in the millions in profits. This same unethical woman promises to leave the company and take all her influential accounts with her if she is not made VP. Obsessed and overworked Lindsey is passed over, dumbfounded.

Staggering under this unprincipled turn of events, stunned Lindsey sneaks back into her office building to view the winning advertisement. Seeing what she thinks is inferior work, she finds some measure of consolation by becoming sexually involved with a young stud underling. Without warning, the new vice-president returns to her office to find Lindsey and the young man almost naked. Lindsey is immediately fired.

In one hapless night, she has lost everything. Lindsey is 29-years old. Lying about being fired, she returns home to live with parents, claiming she is scouting a new firm location that will open in the D.C. area. Losing her high paying job is an unacceptable disgrace, especially since family, relatives, and friends have always thought of Lindsey as the more intelligent twin.

At home, the paths of Lindsey and her “gorgeous” sister Alex begin to cross. To Lindsey, Alex is beautiful, glamorous and famous because of her weekly TV program “bantering with the movie review guys and interviewing stars who are shooting the latest political thriller film in D.C.” Alex has always been a classic beauty. Nowhere can she appear in public without people noticing. Men swoon over her and she appears delighted to be the constant center of attention.

Lindsey considers herself unattractive and plain, an intellectual who could better use wits and a business suit to win her fortune in the world instead of any “gorgeous” beauty she might possess. Lonely and despondent, Lindsey tries hard to rekindle a love affair with a gentle, wholesome man who unfortunately has fallen under Alex’s “gorgeous” charm. Although Lindsey tries with this man, it becomes clear that her love is not mutually returned.

In The Opposite of Me, Lindsey meets a spirited thoughtful woman who operates a dating business. She is a genuine matchmaker in this sense: She meets her clients often until she knows them well. Before she ever attempts a match, she uncovers a person’s honest marital status, their general likes-dislikes, their interests and mannerisms, as well as a glimpse of their personality type. Lindsey confides her problems to her. The woman defines dysfunctional family as, “any family with more than one member in it.”

Lindsey becomes a soulful partner in this same enterprise. She uses similar skills at matchmaking as her partner does. In time she finds this low-key job rather absorbing and becomes quite successful. However, she earns less than one-quarter of her former salary as a high pressure New York businesswoman. Still, she refuses to allow her “gorgeous” sister or her parents to know her New York company fired her.

But The Opposite of Me takes a rather macabre twist. Alex confides to her boyfriend that she has severe headaches at times. She complains that her vision is not always clear. Eventually, Lindsey convinces Alex to visit a doctor. After a series of tests and scans, an eventual diagnosis is reported that will affect both twins, possibly for a lifetime. How they deal with fate I will leave to the reader.

To me as a reviewer, the cover of this book is unjust to the story inside for this reason. The cover picture immediately emits the message that The Opposite of Me is merely another Chick-Lit tale when, indeed, Sarah Pekkhanen’s story is an enticing and enjoyable piece of fiction. I can imagine customers glancing at the cover and dismissing it without much thought.

The Opposite of Me is a pathetic story in many ways because it points out what damaging effects extreme jealousy can have on a kin relationship — a bitterness over beauty and brains. Unreasonable resentment denied both twins twenty-nine years of what could have been a loving satisfying bond. Sure, Lindsey thought Alex was more beautiful, more “georgous” as they grew up in the eyes of their parents, but as she eventually finds out, her perceptions were more imagined than real.

I really liked this book because of the inversion that occurs in both twins when fate forces them to realize there is far more to life than advertising and using beauty products. The tale makes it clear that real beauty of personality comes from the indomitable spirit within. It is something neither fate nor fortune can destroy. Hats off to Sarah Pekkanen for painting such intimate portraits.

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