PAISLEY GIRL by Fran Gordon


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A gritty, hypnotic debut tale told by a perceptive young woman who suffers from a bizarre disease—mast-cell leukemia, a real-life affliction that the author herself has survived. As cells multiply in this kind of leukemia, the body blossoms with paisley-like designs. In a voice that is variously wry, rough, fragmented, and lovely, “Paisley” narrates. She’s in a teaching hospital where doctors study, rather than treat, her. Before her illness, her boyfriend was a British rock star named Crash, whom she met and had impromptu sex with following a concert. She moved with him to England, used hard drugs, and apparently feel deeply in love with him. Then her disease began and she wandered away, ending up extremely ill in Massachusetts. Her condition is now so unusual that her brother sees her on the TV news; he gets her out of that miserable hospital, and she begins to roam. After a strange visit with her parents (they think she has allergies), she uses Crash’s credit card to go back to Barbados, where she and he had once partied. Her perceptions are blurred by drugs and illness, and as experiences roll past her, we feel her exhausted bewilderment and witness the sometimes amusing, sometimes scary ways men still desire her. Paisley accepts a frightening assignment to carry drugs from Trinidad back to Barbados and, while trying to escape the malevolence she finds there, realizes that she has a will to live. Gradually her disease abates; she gathers strength and staggers back to the land of the living. Although the life she’s described is coarse and dangerous, Paisley is no dummy; her vocabulary alone will leave many groping for the dictionary, and she’s familiar with fractals, the vivid paisley- like patterns that spring from higher math and chaos theory. Chaos in fact is the opening and closing note of this mesmerizing dream, leaving readers to mull over the intriguing parallels between start and end.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-20352-7
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2000