Faith and Hope were born conjoined. Unable to cope, their mother signed them away to an institution where they became objects of endless studies. They were eventually transferred to a boarding school. Those were happy days for them. Never apart, always joined, Faith sometimes imagined what it would be like to be alone and free. One day they were driven to an orphanage, a rambling multi-story mansion filled with crippled children and teenagers. In their dormitory, the others made fun of them, but were also curious, never having seen conjoined twins before. It was a miserable time for them. After discovering the library, they spent much of their free time there as an escape and a window into the world outside. They learned that it was possible to have their bodies separated, but the school principal refused to endorse their application, promising that they would stay in the orphanage forever.
They ran away and managed to get to a large city, which they found daunting, seeing thousands of people milling about. They spent their first night there at a stinking hovel. The next day, they walked to the nearest hospital. But without clinical records and a passport, nobody would see them. They walked to many hospitals until one doctor saw them. They told him they want to be separated and the doctor said it was not possible; they shared too many organs. Dejected, all hope lost, unable to find shelter, they walked around all night to keep warm. They finally found a derelict house where they rested. They had no money or food, and when they tried begging, everyone avoided them because they were joined. After two months, half-starved and winter approaching, a revolting man employed them as beggars in exchange for shelter and food. Life could not get any worse for them, but at least they had something.
They discussed the possibility of finding their real mother, and after searching the local phone directory, they found several addresses that had their old surname. After six tries, they found her, but after the initial warm reception, their mother turned into a shrew, declaring that she hated them and they only appeared now to cheat her out of her apartment. Staying only a few days, they decided to return to their abandoned house and begging. Summer came, and with it, a new man who took everything from the beggars he supervised. He found them new and more comfortable housing and provided free food in exchange for all the money they managed to collect. Their old life became a blurred memory, and the only thing they knew was begging, survival and slinking around the city, their dream of being separated forgotten. After a while, Faith got sick of this life and Hope wanted to kill herself. They were stuck at the bottom of the social ladder and resorted to drinking in order to forget the hopelessness of their existence. Being bound always, never apart, they started hating each other, but the fates did eventually extend them a helping hand.
One-Two is a complex, superbly written story told by Faith, dragging the reader through the bottom rungs of life in the old Soviet Union. It is a raw, unvarnished journey into the worst elements of social bigotry, rejection, and loss of hope that some will hesitate to take or complete, but it is one worth persevering with, although sobering. It takes courage to keep open the window into such a harsh world, and I must admit that I was tempted to close it more than once. One-Two is a story that slowly captivates, and once hooked, difficult to abandon, leaving the reader wondering if it is possible to sink any lower, marveling at the tenacity to cling to life regardless how hopeless, devoid of a future or redemption, the only thing keeping Faith and Hope going was merely to live through the day.
Igor Eliseev has a deceptive and seemingly simple writing style not usually used for such works that nevertheless manages to weave an intricate tapestry of narrative and engaging dialogue with skill that makes it a pleasure to read. His portrayal of Faith and Hope is vivid and stark without descending into the darkness of morbid minds. What the twins endure to survive provides a sufficiently unadulterated picture for readers to fill in the unsavory details. Although the fates does throw them a lifeline, it came at a terrible price. The book is more or less all about Faith and how she perceives the world. I would have liked to see some insight into Hope, her likes, fears and desires, but this small deficiency does not diminish the value of this work. Readers will find this book disturbing, leaving them thoughtful at the realization that there are many versions of existence out there, and most of it is not very comfortable.
You can find One-Two on Amazon.
Read reviews of other books I have read.
About the Igor Eliseev
Igor Miroshnichenko (born 12 March, 1977 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia) is an English-language writer, novelist, and essayist; he writes under the pen name Igor Eliseev, his mother’s maiden name.
Igor graduated from the Don State Technical University, where he studied engineering procedure, in 1999. He also studied at the Moscow University of Industry and Finance, graduating in 2009 with a degree in the management of commercial activities.
He first tried his hand at writing sketches and scripts for a radio show. He also found himself particularly drawn to portrait and fashion photography. Some time later, he became one of the most in-demand photographers in Moscow. His photos brought him a lot of attention and a taste of financial freedom, but ultimately, literature remains his true and only calling.
Igor Eliseev began his literary activity in 1999 with a number of short stories, essays and a film script. Later, the plot of the script developed into a literary novel – the most important project of his life and one that has not yet been completed. In 2015, however, he finished his second novel, which, by a twist of fate, became his debut novel. One-Two, a book that is dedicated to the memory of his mother, tells the story of two conjoined sisters born in the era of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
He has been interested in oriental martial arts ever since he was a child and practices Judo, Karate, Jiu-Jitsu and Chinese Wushu; he worked as a martial arts instructor for several years.