Is Mia’s best friend, Lorrie Ann, really a better but unluckier version of Mia herself? That's the question in this debut novel about the journey from girlhood to womanhood.
Friends since they were children, Mia and Lorrie Ann are opposite sides of the same coin: “We were both smart, but Lorrie Ann was contemplative where I was wily, she earnest and I shrewd. Where she was sentimental, I became sarcastic.” Growing up in the eponymous Californian neighborhood in the 1990s, narrator Mia constantly measures herself negatively against her friend with the perfect family. Lorrie Ann loyally helps 15-year-old Mia when she needs an abortion, but a few years later, after Lorrie Ann herself becomes pregnant, she makes a different decision—to marry the father, Jim, and have the baby. After a difficult labor, the child is born with cerebral palsy; and then Jim, who joins the Army partly to cover his family’s medical bills, is killed in Iraq, leaving Lorrie Ann to struggle not only with money and child care, but drugs too. Meanwhile, Mia, still thinking of herself as black-hearted compared to her lovely friend, has gone to Yale, then graduate school, and found a wonderful partner in Franklin, a classics scholar like herself. The two girlfriends meet again years later in Istanbul, after Lorrie Ann has lost her suffering child to foster care and has become a heroin addict while Mia has just discovered she might be pregnant and is unsure whether to tell Franklin, who has said that he doesn’t want children. Thorpe brings sensitivity to her well-trodden terrain of female friendship and dilemmas of choice, but Mia’s journey of discovery about herself and her “opposite twin” feels excessively binary.
A slender, overplotted account of finding emotional peace.