The Next Chapter

Why Keith Maillard's novel Twin Studies dissects the nature of love and family

The Vancouver writer discusses the themes he explores with his latest novel.
Twin Studies is a novel by Keith Maillard. (Freehand Books, Mary Maillard)

Twin Studies is the latest novel by the Vancouver writer Keith Maillard. It follows the stories of three sets twins, zeroing in on a set of preteen twins. From there, the story moves out to explore the nature of family and the bonds that hold people together. It's set in West Vancouver.

Below, Maillard talks about the different themes he explores in Twin Studies.

Gender fluidity

"Devon and Jamie are children of a couple who have split up. The mother lives in West Vancouver, one of the wealthiest communities in Canada. Their father is American and has gone back to California. The twins split up when they are eight and reunite when they are 12. They, uncannily, look remarkably like each other. When they began talking, they discover they have very similar things going on in their minds. Against all evidence, they have decided that they are identical, even though one's a boy and one's a girl. Everybody has told them their whole life that they're fraternal.

"Gender is a huge theme in the book. It's set far enough back in time that Karen, the twins' mother, knows absolutely nothing whatsoever about trans issues, as I think a lot of moms wouldn't back in 2009 or 2010. If I had set the book ahead in time two or three or four or five years, it would be a very different book. There are a lot of kids now in North America questioning traditional gender norms from various angles. Jamie and Devon end up doing that. By the end of the book, they actually have identified as nonbinary, which was a term just coming into use in 2009. If you have been declared fraternal your whole life, but you are convinced you are identical, then there must be some sort of gender that you both share."

Rethinking the 'nuclear family'

"The main themes of the book are very important to me. There's that phrase 'nuclear family.' The old school notion of a nuclear family is mom, dad and kid. What my book is challenging is the idea that we have to continue to recreate these nuclear families, which really are isolated units. Rather than that, what we see being created is a fluid larger family, in which people come together for other reasons. I think it's essential that we start rethinking family, that we start rethinking our connections to each other. We all have to become more closely connected and help each other be responsible for each other because we are in terrible danger. So many terrible things have gone wrong and if we don't get together we may be endangered as a species. These dark things were in the back of my head as I was writing the book."

Keith Maillard's comments have been edited for length and clarity.


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