Ohlin’s characters are compelling and subtle, as is the world they inhabit. They evolve but remain very much themselves ... The prose in Dual Citizens is spare and thoughtful, like Lark herself. Ohlin’s style resists melodrama and instead imbues moments with emotional gravity using the simple weight of Lark’s testimony ... It could be said that Ohlin chooses to portray too large a swath of life in this novel (in one instance, she glosses over three years with a single sentence). I’d argue, though, that the novel is made in these small moments of sparkling clarity, where the affection a reader feels for these achingly flawed and lifelike characters bumps up against Ohlin’s clear-headed and honest depictions of their struggle. Dual Citizens is a gentle and moving exploration of what bonds us to those we love and the evolving strength or tenuousness of those bonds ... Loving others is not easy for the girls, or even the women they become, in this book. They are buoyed over the deep water of their losses and devastating joys by their unassailable bonds, their invisible garments of love and trust. This is their story, entrusted to us via Ohlin’s vast emotional intelligence and illuminating, unassuming prose.
Ohlin's prose and insight are luminous, particularly within 'Childhood', focused on the girls' early years and the exposed roots they trip over as they try to find their footing—as sisters, daughters, parental figures and individuals. 'Motherhood' is equally compelling yet oddly discordant, as Robin and Lark spend much of it apart. As with her prior novel, Inside, Ohlin is adroit at articulating her characters' internal dialogues, and it becomes apparent to the reader as it does to both women that they are at their most harmonious when connected to each other.
Dual Citizens is a slow, unshowy novel with little in the way of tension. It creeps along at such a benign, caterpillar pace that I expected some kind of dramatic metamorphosis for the sisters, but though the ending enacts a touching reconciliation it only lightly disturbs the overall atmosphere of quiet resignation. This is largely due to Ms. Ohlin’s decision to couch the novel in Lark’s perspective, allowing only an obstructed view of her far more compelling sister.
You would expect there to be tension or rivalry between the sisters, even a hint of jealousy would be a welcome addition to a plot containing little conflict, but Lark is devoted to her sister ... The subsequent question of Lark’s suitability to be a mother is by far the most interesting element in what is otherwise a conventional novel. It is informed by all we know about Marianne and will learn about Robin. But, surprisingly, in a novel that reveals itself to be about the maternal bonds, it is a question nobody asks out loud. Ohlin has created a character with glaringly obvious codependency issues, low self-esteem and fear of abandonment. Yet these issues are never directly addressed or acknowledged by the other characters, even while Ohlin has seeded the text with multiple examples of not just Lark’s, but her entire family’s, dysfunction ... Ultimately, Dual Citizens is a one-sided conversation, a monologue never revealing Lark’s reasons for undertaking this journey of memory.
Alix Ohlin’s gorgeous prose and deeply drawn characters pull readers easily through the decades, creating an unforgettable portrait of two women who find that the bonds of sisterhood transcend even the most conflicting definitions of happiness.
In her latest novel, Ohlin...paints a luminous portrait of two half-sisters ... Ultimately uplifting, Ohlin’s touching, beautifully crafted story traces the unbreakable bond holding the sisters together, even when miles apart, through many changes.
Ohlin’s prose is lovely, and she asks smart, complicated questions not only about family, but also about the nature of narrative itself—whether in literature or in film—about the difference between artifice and truth and the meaning of nostalgia. Certain elements of the novel could have been developed further, but, all in all, Ohlin’s latest is a lovely, deeply moving work. A lyrical account of the lives of two women, their failures and hopes, and ultimately their quiet redemption.
...[an] engrossing, intricate tale ... Ohlin smartly chooses a broad scope and expertly weaves Lark and Robin’s disparate lives into a singular thread, making for an exceptional depiction of the bond between sisters.