Roufa’s debut novel follows the misadventures of a clone of Abraham Lincoln and a clone of Marilyn Monroe as they attempt to evade government agents and figure out what it means to claim their own identities.
In a future where cloning has advanced to the point that it's a widespread technology, so accepted that parents have the choice of selecting clones of celebrities to be their children, Abraham Lincoln Finkelstein is an anomaly. An illegal clone of a “crucial historical figure,” Abe lives a quiet life teaching American history at a high school in Orlando, Florida, until the discovery of his unique genetic identity puts him under the scrutiny of curious government agents. Norma Jeane Greenberg works as a perfume sales representative at a department store, struggling with an ambivalent acceptance of herself as one of the many clones of Marilyn Monroe and a weakness for kleptomania. Abe and Norma become charmingly unlikely allies on the run from cartoonish government agents and department store security. Roufa’s characters are both endearing and funny, and she plumbs the premise they’re based on for delightfully zany details—a support group for clones of Marilyn Monroe, a restaurant where every dish contains cloned dodo—but the emotions are often heavy-handed, and the humor has a flavor of airless calculation. The novel feels so concerned with making sure the reader appreciates all the jokes that the story gets held up by constant nudging and plodding repetition. While it aims at the modern preoccupations of realness, identity, and fame, it tries so hard to pound those points home that they feel like obligatory lessons dropped into a comedy, leeching the story of both emotional resonance and fun.
A novel with a madcap premise and appealing characters that does not quite fulfill its comedic promise.