My Sister from the Black Lagoon

A Novel of My Life

By Laurie Fox
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9780684847450, 336pp.)

Publication Date: August 1998

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback

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"I was born into a mentally ill family. My sister was the officially crazy one, but really we were all nuts."

So begins "My Sister from the Black Lagoon," Laurie Fox's incandescent novel of growing up absurd. Lorna Person's tale is wrested from the shadows cast by her sister, Lonnie, whose rages command the full attention of her mother, a Rita Hayworth lookalike, and her father, a television network accountant full of Jackie Gleason bluster. Their San Fernando Valley household is offkey and out-of-kilter, a place where Lonnie sees evil in the morning toast and runs into the Burbank hills to join the animals that seem more like her kin. Lorna, on the other hand, is an acutely sensitive girl who can't relate to Barbie. "Could Barbie feel sorrow? Could Barbie understand what it's like to be plump, lonely, Jewish?" she asks. Imprisoned inside a cuckoo's nest of a family, Lorna faces the world armed with nothing but an unshakable faith in Art -- and perhaps the healing power of show tunes. Her childhood is spent as a failed Sugarplum Fairy, dancing around in her living room for an audience of none, hoping to transcend her parents' inadvertent neglect and her own awkwardness.

As Lorna searches for acceptance in her teen years -- buoyed by "Shindig " and Joni Mitchell -- she must also disentangle herself from her beloved sister's wild and morbid underworld. In high school, Lorna finds her place by "not" fitting in, finding solace and mutual support with a troupe of hippie friends as luminous and wacky as herself. High school also ushers in the arrival of The Boy and a gift for making poems. The imagination that sustained Lorna as a girl now carries her into the theater, placingher center stage for the first time in her life, where she finally finds the room to come to terms with her sister and parents.

"My Sister from the Black Lagoon" is a wise-cracked bell jar, a heartbreaking study of sane and crazy that heralds the debut of a considerable talent. Knowing yet wide-eyed, lyrical, and witty, Laurie Fox's voice is a delight to listen to, one that sings the song of innocence and experience in an utterly new way.

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