If Julia Glass were a painter, she would work in miniatures. In spite of its expansive title, her last novel, The Whole World Over, zeroed so far in on one couple, one marriage, and one year that its near-disastrous ending seemed bizarrely out of scale. Even on such a tiny canvas, though, she was able to create discernable portraits, and the same holds true for I See You Everywhere, in which two sisters' cross-country lives are rendered not in the miles that separate them, but the few steps between them when they happen to be in the same room.

Raised in coastal Rhode Island, sisters Louisa and Clem Jardine saw themselves as opposites almost reflexively, before they were even old enough to make their own decisions. The novel first finds them in their early 20s, assiduously avoiding a fight over the jewelry they inherited from a great-great-aunt. In the decades ahead, Louisa drifts to New York City and into a career in the art world as a ruthless editor with an eye for new talent; Clem chases animal-rescue jobs and graduate degrees across the country, picking up fishermen and other temporary lovers along the way. The inconstant correspondents get most of their news about each other from their parents, coming together mostly for family celebrations and minor catastrophes. (The title comes from a lame stretch of puns with which Louisa greets her sister in intensive care after a boating accident.)

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I See You Everywhere never builds to a dramatic peak; it lets each episode ebb and flow while adding depth to the revelations about family that both daughters experience when facing each other again. They share narration duties—in the frenetic first chapter, they alternate practically every page—which allows their half-stories and allusions to coalesce over each succeeding chapter. Glass treats Louisa and Clem's careers with a particularly fine eye for detail and the gravity they deserve; unlike many books about female friendship, in which gainful employment ranks as a throwaway comment at brunch, Glass ranks their search for personal fulfillment as equal or even superior to their romantic frustrations. This tension illustrates the ways in which their paths have diverged without prescribing any pat solutions to the problems they face as they age. Glass is therefore free to paint them and their fresh, revealing lives, unbound by the need to universalize.