Lone Twin

A True Story of Loss and Found


Honorbale Mention for the 2020 ICQI Qualitative Book Award!

On her death bed, Laurel Richardson’s sister whispers a deep family secret to her. Those whispered words send the famed sociologist and author on a personal exploration of a lifetime. Lone Twin: A True Story of Loss and Found is an extraordinary story of a search for identity, wholeness, and forgiveness. Grounded in the cultures of mid-Twentieth Century Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles, Lone Twin weaves the personal with the social, cultural, and political. Richardson shares fascinating, resonant, and humorous stories about her relationships with a suicidal poet, a Swedish fencer, a budding scientist, a Puerto Rican family, a Mafia family, her Russian Jewish and Irish Catholic family, and her famous cousin, Laura Foreman. Her story is at once singular and plural. As Richardson shares her journey towards wholeness and forgiveness, readers are invited to consider their own journeys and ask: Is there something missing in my life? How do I justify my existence? Lone Twin is an exquisitely written book about identity, the search for people who understand us, and the ties that bind. This outstanding example of literary sociology can be used as supplemental reading in a range of courses in American studies, gender studies, social science, child development, and creative writing. It can be read entirely for pleasure and is a great choice for book clubs. An appendix offers discussion questions, projects, and creative writing exercises.

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Laurel Richardson, Ph.D. (1963) the University of Colorado, is a Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Sociology at The Ohio State University. She has been honored with multiple awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Congress of Qualitative Research.
“I read everything that Laurel Richardson writes. Lone Twin: A True Story is in my mind her best. Laurel invites us into her friendships and family life as she moves through stories of the role ‘twins’—the concept and the experience—have had in her life. The writing is extraordinary— the storytelling and literary turn of phrase; the particular detail that takes your breath, unfolding a video of experience in front of you, hers and then yours; sensuous descriptions that have you reading them over and over, simply because you can’t bear to leave them behind. This book takes you in and out of life, love, attachment, and loss. Laurel’s work is historical, sociological, existential, literary, and above all a well-told story that will grab your heart and soul, inviting you too to ask questions of your life, and possibly construct and live a new story. Her story lingers with me now and I am mesmerized with how I might rewrite and redeem myself and my family, as Laurel has done.” — Carolyn Ellis, Distinguished University Professor Emerita, Department of Communications, University of South Florida
“I read it straight away—indeed I couldn’t put it down—and didn’t. I found it a complete page-turner.” — Juliet Mitchell, Professor of Psychoanalysis and Gender Studies, University of Cambridge, and Emeritus Fellow, Jesus College
“Laurel Richardson has been a master storyteller of personal events, families, and relationships for her entire career. But what do you do with those stories when a revelation late in life turns all those events and relationships upside down? In Lone Twin, Richardson’s rewrite of her life enriched by this new knowledge—including brilliant stories of her twinning with friends and family— is both emotionally revelatory and a reader’s delight.” — Mitch Allen, University of California–Berkeley
“This time renowned American writer and sociologist Laurel Richardson has written a thriller that builds towards a most unexpected ending. In her unique and brilliant style, she probes her life and family history to reveal much about friendship and family secrets.” — Julie White, Associate Professor and Principal Research Fellow, Victoria University, Melbourne
“Laurel Richardson at her most brilliant—my generation’s best writer. Family, another word for pain, and a measure of what we have lost and then re-gained; a vision of what might have been—poetic, haunting, mesmerizing.” — Norman Denzin, Distinguished Professor of Communications, College of Communications Scholar, and Research Professor of Communications, Sociology, and Humanities, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
“Lone Twin is a book about human connection, its joys and its weight that pulls on a life, sometimes without one knowing why. It reads like a sociological case study, a memoir, a family history, and an intriguing mystery, but most of all, as an object lesson of what matters in our personal lives. From the beginning, readers will find themselves caught up in this beautifully rendered world. By the book’s end, they will feel privileged to have met the people who populate this world and will be carried to the entanglements of their own relationships.” — Ronald J. Pelias, Emeritus Professor, Southern Illinois University
Lone Twin is a compelling book: complex, enchanting, poignant, sharp, funny, and much, much more. Richardson takes the reader on an extraordinary, surprising journey into her life-long twin-like experiences. The book’s stories of friendships, perhaps-friendships and family relationships are each shot through with compassion, fearlessness, and Richardson’s customary eye for detail, ear for dialogue, and sense of place (in particular the Chicago of her childhood). We feel Richardson, those others who people her book, and the places they inhabit, in the room with us, alive and close. In turn, this immediacy animates the questions of secrecy, love, loss, fear, hope, and mystery their stories engage with. I read ‘Lone Twin’ in two sittings: the first took me to the final chapter. I stopped at that point so I could savour the final chapter the next day. I didn’t want the book to end.” — Jonathan Wyatt, Professor of Qualitative Inquiry, University of Edinburgh
“I love this book so much. I started reading it yesterday morning and read all day. In this beautiful, deeply moving collection of coming-of- age stories, Laurel Richardson reflects on the enchantment of twins, and the human need to intertwine in meaningful relationships. She captures the desire for connection in haunting prose and an unflinching narrative. Richardson is known for her writing: Lone Twin is her best writing ever.” — Jessica Smartt Gullion, PhD, Associate Professor of Sociology, Texas Woman’s University, and author of Diffractive Ethnography: Social Sciences and the Ontological Turn and Writing Ethnography
“Laurel Richardson has outdone herself. Lone Twin is a riveting journey of how the physical, mental, and emotional hurts and longings of childhood and our (mis)connections with others mold our desires and sense of self. Richardson asks the ‘what if’ questions about life, love, and connection with unflinching honesty: What if you found a twin in a friend, a neighbor, or peer? What if you could talk to them with just eye blinks of understanding? What if you could find a twinned connection with others and find your own strength by working through questions of identity, girl rage, loneliness, and competition? What happens to that connection when the inevitable difficulties of life and loss intervene? I will be using this book in my relational and gender communication classes.” — Sandra L. Faulkner, author of Poetic Inquiry: Method, Craft, and Practice
“I’ve always admired and enjoyed Laurel Richardson’s lyrical writing and her latest work is no exception. She has quite a story to tell and she tells it deftly. This is a captivating compelling memoir. This is a story of secrets, intuition, clues, a complex family, and a final truth on a deathbed. On the way to the truth we have a captivating story of a family, a girl/woman who is immensely talented, intuitive, and inquisitive who finally gets answers to long-concealed information. Her story is spellbinding and continues to linger with me.” — Susan Knox, writer of short stories, essays, and creative nonfictions
“A woman who was once called little Miss Perfect reflects on childhood friendships, torturous and intimate, and the cruelties of her siblings and parents. She digs even deeper in search of a part of herself that is missing. If you have ever felt an original loss, you will want to follow the journey of this woman named Laurel, as imperfect as you and as I, as she does the brave, inspiring work of redemption.” — Maggie Kast, fiction and creative non-fiction author of The Crack between the Worlds, A Free, Unsullied Land, Side by Side and Never Face to Face: A Novella and Stories
“In this intimate memoir, Laurel Richardson provides insight into the importance of uncovering family secrets and recovering lost pieces of ourselves even when it seems too late to matter. Lone Twin explores the gaps and mysteries in our lives that hover in our dreams and on the edge of consciousness until they are confronted and resolved.” — Erica Scurr, M.F.A., creative non-fiction
“Simply put, I found Lone Twin to be riveting. It’s a stunner for book- clubs, too! Laurel’s personal family story, complete with humor, pathos, drama, secrets and rituals, evoked my own family stories. I was moved by the raw honesty of her words, always clear, often poetic. As a psychologist/psychotherapist for 45 years, I would encourage clinicians at all levels to read Laurel’s book. Moreover, I believe that clients, young and old, will find value in the book. We are reminded that family secrets impact everyone in the constellation. Once revealed, we can better make the journey to wholeness.” — Ellyn Geller, Psychotherapist, Princeton, NJ
"The book is powerful – a must-read." — Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal

Part 1: What

Chapter 1: Absence

Part 2: School Girls

Chapter 2: Real Twins: Joan And June
Chapter 3: Look-a-Likes: Susan
Chapter 4: En Garde: Ingrid
Chapter 5: Mirror/Mirror: Laurel/Laurel
Chapter 6: Liar-Liar: Leah
Chapter 7: Blood Sisters: Valerie
Chapter 8: Miss Esther
Chapter 9: Maria
Chapter 10: Soul-Mate: Nathalie

Part 3: Family Ties

Chapter 11: Cousin Katie
Chapter 12: Lone Twin
Chapter 13: Forgiving My Family

Futher Engagements
About the Author
Creative writing, qualitative research, women’s studies, sociology, child development or American studies students, and book clubs, helping professionals, twins researchers and researchers of Twentieth Century Chicago and New York City.