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"Marigold was absorbed in her book; she had gotten as far as the V." So begins Marigold and Rose, Louise Gluck's astonishing chronicle of the first year in the life of twin girls. Imagine a fairy tale that is also a multigenerational saga; a piece for two hands that is also a symphony; a poem that is also, in the spirit of Kafka's The Metamorphosis, an incandescent act of autobiography. Here are the elements you'd expect to find in a story of infant twins: Father and Mother, Grandmother and Other Grandmother, bath time and naptime-but more than that, Marigold and Rose is an investigation of the great mystery of language and of time itself, of what is and what has been and what will be.

"Outside the playpen there were day and night. What did they add up to? Time was what they added up to. Rain arrived, then snow." The twins learn to climb stairs, they regard each other like criminals through the bars of their cribs, they begin to speak.

"It was evening. Rose was smiling placidly in the bathtub playing with the squirting elephant, which, according to Mother, represented patience, strength, loyalty and wisdom. How does she do it, Marigold thought, knowing what we kn