Morgan McCarthy’s debut, The Other Half of Me, follows two siblings over the span of 20 years as their lives morph from childhood innocence to adulthood in a nurture-less environment. Written in hauntingly beautiful prose, McCarthy has created a unique, albeit slow-paced, novel.
Jonathan Anthony, the narrator, is at times unreliable. When he recalls his childhood years, he occasionally uses words much too advanced for a young boy, making him unbelievable. Understandably, Jonathan was an intellectually advanced and solitary boy. But excusing Jonathan’s unreliable nature, he does paint a lovely picture for the reader. The metaphors are exquisite in their uniqueness, and the descriptions are flawless. Every minute detail is observed, however, making the plot feel tedious. The reader should consider: Given the trouble Jonathan experiences with memory after tragedy strikes his family, how can he possibly remember everything so clearly?
Theo Anthony, Jonathan’s sister, appears to be the protagonist of the story. Her behavior is what moves the plot forward. Though we learn about Jonathan and his rising success in the architectural world, it is Theo’s life that we crave glimpses of. Jonathan, whether McCarthy intended to or not, places Theo on a pedestal throughout the novel as he relates her deteriorating mental state. Theo is seen through Anthony’s subjective eyes, inadvertently placing her on a pedestal for the reader as well.
The character growth is successful because of its subtlety. One of the motivating factors for character growth in McCarthy’s novel is grief. She does not overplay the role of grief in her novel, instead she caresses it and gently directs the reader into understanding the grief that is haunting her characters. The second factor affecting character growth is the love that Jonathan and Theo share. It is the familial love between the two siblings that gives the story depth. McCarthy does not easily give her characters unconditional love. Instead, Jonathan refuses to bestow or receive love, while Theo is too quick to share it.
Morgan McCarthy’s debut’s greatest flaw is the pacing, but her characters and masterful descriptions redeem the story. The Other Half of Me begins unsteadily, but will haunt its readers with its conclusion.