Golden Child by Claire Adam

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Twins make up only a small fraction of the population but loom disproportionately large in literature. They are handy for storylines involving mistaken identity and creepy synchronicity, and offer the chance to show how people whose lives begin in the same place can take drastically different paths. A contrast between dissimilar twins is at the heart of “Golden Child”, Claire Adam’s assured and compelling first novel, which is set in rural Trinidad, where she grew up, during the 1980s.

Unlike Viola and Sebastian in “Twelfth Night”, Peter and Paul Deyalsingh do not appear to be “An apple, cleft in two”. Not at all. Paul “tends to slink around”, while Peter “walks with a bold step”. The boys—aged 13 when the book opens—have been treated differently from the beginning. Paul was deprived of oxygen at birth; a doctor suggested to the twins’ father, Clyde, that “mental retardation” might have resulted.