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The Effect of Living Backwards
Heidi Julavits


Alice and Edith are sisters, best friends, and archenemies. Alice, the “good girl,” is everything the stunning, wanton, and morally whimsical Edith is not. Both have an unhealthy attraction to shame and disgrace, and both are expert manipulators—a power that is tested and exploited when the plane they are traveling on is commandeered by a blind terrorist in what may or may not be a hijacking.

There’s something decidedly strange about Bruno, the terrorist—not to mention his inept collaborators and his perverse methods. When Alice is chosen to communicate with the hostage negotiator, Edith decides to align herself with Bruno. Alice is inexplicably drawn to the hostage negotiator, even as it becomes harder and harder to distinguish allies from enemies in what begins to feel like an elliptical airborne game show. Trapped on the plane with a pill-popping pregnant heiress, archeologists on their way to a reunion, a wealthy, self-aggrandizing Indian man, and a dog named Verne, Alice learns a few valuable lessons about sibling rivalry, about love, and about discovering who she is—even while pretending to be someone else.