Nancy Springer's Larque on the Wing is another novel with a wonderful ending. In fact, this book is one of the least predictable fantasy novels that I have read in years, a matter-of-fact assault on conventional assumptions about sex, gender, family, motherhood, marriage, love, friendship, addiction, spirituality, and carrots, among other things.
Larque is a successful, happily married artist somewhat enthusiastically approaching middle age. She has found a niche painting inoffensive pastoral scenes in decorator colors, which are snapped up by trendy suburbanites at Pennsylvania craft fairs. Since her teenage years, Larque also has had a more-or-less uncontrollable ability to summon dopplegangers, images or aspects of people which float silently in the air beside them:
Larque has grown used to her dopplegangers, as have her easygoing Pennsylvania Dutch husband, Hoot, and her three sons, but problems begin when Sky, a doppleganger of herself as a ten-year-old, appears. This doppleganger talks, and she's not happy about the choices Larque has made in her adult life. Eventually, Sky accompanies Larque on a magical makeover into the body she dreamed of as a girl, which largely resembles a teenage boy with detachable accessories ("Every book I read the whole time I was growing up, men did important things and women brought drinks on trays."). Predictably, but much to Larque's surprise, this leads to difficulties when she returns home.
Larque's continuing adventures of self-discovery lead to a series of encounters with other neglected aspects of her life: her mother, who refuses to see things she doesn't approve of, and "blinks" them into more appropriate forms; her long-since-disappeared father; her colorful (literally) best friend Doris, addicted to twelve-step programs; and many others all equally memorable. Her adventures also lead to a series of surreal climaxes. Naturally, Larque must come to terms with her own, trifurcated (read the book and you'll understand) self before she can solve any of the problems her mid-life crisis has created.
As fantasy, Larque on the Wing owes more to Tom Robbins and John Irving than to Tolkein or Tanith Lee. The novel is a fast-paced, unpredictable read, punctuated throughout by Springer's knack for telling turns of phrase.
This was the first review
I wrote that was quoted by the publisher's publicity department; the line
"a matter-of-fact assault on conventional assumptions about sex, gender,
family, motherhood, marriage, love, friendship, addiction, spirituality,
and carrots" appeared on the quotes page at the front of the paperback edition
of the book.
This was originally published in Horror, then was reprinted in slightly different form in Melissa Scott's Wavelengths.