Maggie’s Ruse
by Anne Leigh Parrish
Unsolicited Press

"Maggie knew the real reason she had to go was she couldn’t stand his not being able to tell them apart in the dark."

This is a contemporary novel of relationships—ostensibly the one between two identical twin sisters who live in New York City. One is intent on becoming a painter, the other an actress. While each has had far less success than they’d like up to this point in their lives, the two twenty-somethings remain fixated on achieving their goals. Fortunately, they are supported by an allowance from wealthy parents that enables them to pursue their ambitions without the need to actually support themselves.

The title of the novel is the event that propels the chronicle of Maggie and Marta. A casual boyfriend of Marta’s (who could become a lot more than that) mistakes Maggie for her twin. Maggie realizes what has happened but goes along with the ruse, which leads to aggressive kissing, embracing, and more, but is interrupted in the middle of making out by Marta. Thus, the stage is set for the remainder of the narrative that will test the seemingly unbreakable bonds that the twins have always shared.

Author Parrish is an accomplished writer who imbues her characters not only with idiosyncratic behavioral traits but also with physical and emotional muscle and bone. She cuts to the heart of how the people who populate her pages feel, whether it is the sisters, their family, friends, or lovers. Particular players who stand out are Josh—a young, would-be writer and director who has a difficult time categorizing his feelings between the two sisters. Similar to them, he is the recipient of an ongoing allowance that soon becomes a trust that enables him to pursue his artistic vision without the need to actually work for a living. His financial security, however, does not allow him to avoid serious emotional issues that threaten to overwhelm both him and his attachment to others. Leah is a painter and acquaintance of Maggie. She suffers from a physical and emotional tragedy simultaneously to having one of her paintings vandalized. Yet she is able to overcome these affronts to herself and her work and becomes one of the lynchpins of stability that points the way to greater independence for one of the twins. Other incidental characters that stand out via the author’s perceptive depiction are Kyle—a gay friend of Maggie’s—and Monique, a savvy African American shop owner who understands Marta’s artistic quest but cuts her no slack when it comes to personal responsibility.

Parrish’s prose is easy to read and keeps the pace of her tale moving along smartly. Her dialogue is crisp and relevant, never lapsing into mere plot exposition. She is particularly adept at translating emotional revelation, as when she has Marta reflect upon Josh: “The fact that he was handsome and could further her career had suggested a depth and sturdiness he just didn’t have.” The book is somewhat more of a character study than an intricate story, and one comes away from this novel with a heightened sense of empathy for the intellectual and spiritual ties that make identical twins seem identical on the outside yet truly individual on the inside.

Eric Hoffer Book Award, General Fiction, Honorable Mention

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