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Identical Strangers Reader’s Guide

By Elyse Schein Paula Bernstein

Identical Strangers by Elyse Schein | Paula Bernstein


Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Identical Strangers delves into the age-old question of nature versus nurture. What conclusions does the book draw, if any? Has it changed the way you view the issue?

2. Paula and Elyse discuss the ways in which twins receive special attention in our society. Do you think twins have a special relationship? Why or why not would you want to be a twin?

3. Viola Bernard felt certain that twins would develop better senses of identity if they were raised separately. Even if you don’t agree with her, do you think there is any validity to her claim?

4. “Thank God she is not my carbon copy” (p. 51). When they first meet as adults, Paula and Elyse are both relieved that they are not exactly identical in appearance or personality. How do you think you would react meeting your double for the first time?

5. Paula and Elyse each deal with the news of discovering she has an identical twin differently. How do you think you would react if you were in their situation?

6. “Once we separate today, I worry that my twin will vanish again” (p. 68), Paula writes after their first meeting. Soon after, she writes “I sometimes wish that [Elyse] hadn’t found me” (p. 128). Can you understand Paula’s ambivalence about her relationship with Elyse?

7. “I would like a better word to describe my relationship to Leda,” writes Elyse. “Suddenly it occurs to me that Leda is not my mother, she is our mother” (p. 244). Do you think there is an adequate word to describe the sisters’ relationship to Leda?

8. Mr. Witt seems reluctant to meet with Paula and Elyse. Can you understand his hesitance? Do you consider him to be their “uncle”?

9. Has Identical Strangers changed your views on adoption? If so, how?

10. Were you surprised by how well Paula and Elyse’s families got along when they met? How do you imagine you’d react if you found out your adopted child was a twin? What action would you take, if any?

11. Project into the future. How do you think Paula and Elyse’s relationship will develop after the story ends?

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