THIS BODY by Laurel Doud


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A debut novel by a California librarian takes off from the spritely theme of postmortal switched identity, played under the comic mantle of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.. Katharine Ashley, wife and mother of two teenagers, dies and awakens but a year later to find herself housed in the dead body of Thisby Flute Bennet, a Los Angeles druggie 15 years her junior. With her face laid flat against an unfamiliar bathroom floor, she surges into the addict’s wracked, wraith-like body. Days pass; the fires of addiction flame and lower. She fitfully cleans her filthy apartment and gathers the dregs of Thisby’s life together. Meanwhile, a phone call to her former home reveals that her husband has remarried and her old family gained a fresh semblance of emotional balance, although her son blames himself for the stress that killed her And so, very gradually, Katharine/Thisby comes to terms with her novel incarnation as a recovering addict (and a budding photographer), as well as with her well-to-do second family, including younger sister Quince and brother Puck. Before they married, her new parents had once performed together in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the play’s spirit hangs densely over each family member--even over their dogs, Snout and Oberon. But living as Thisby is really not easy. Her new family distrusts her; she’s attracted to her handsome new father; her brother lusts for her, and at length springs into action. When Thisby’s bad-news old boyfriend turns up, she gets pregnant--but is it by her brother or her boyfriend? Then her own erstwhile teenage children show up with their problems—plus she’s become an alcoholic. As Katharine painfully learns, not even indisputable proof of an afterlife can lift her out of the mire of human problems. A well-told and soulful effort.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-316-19675-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1998