THE GOLDEN ROPE by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer


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 The author of First Nights (1993), among others, explores the lives of twin sisters whose fates and identities are hopelessly intertwined--an exhaustive (and often exhausting) study of each woman's desperate efforts to establish a separate self. From the beginning, the twins Florence and Doris Meek could read each other's thoughts, as though their two bodies shared a single mind. Growing up, they shared a secret language, as well as a powerful private ethos based on the assumption of firstborn Florence's dominance and Doris's loving submission. As the girls approached adulthood, however, Florence began to long to see herself as unique, and the constant presence of her ``shadow self'' became unbearably oppressive. She managed to break free of her sister by achieving fame as an artist, then fleeing to France, at age 19, as the wife of charismatic playwright Jack Pine. Seven years later, Doris is still too heartbroken by her twin's public claims that she's an orphan with no family to respond coherently to the news that Florence has suddenly and mysteriously disappeared. Did philandering Jack murder his young wife? Did Florence kill herself? Or did she die while she was attempting to flee her domestic life and find utter isolation at last? Doris feels too fragile to address this mystery until decades later, when a helpful journalist, a rueful Jack Pine, and Florence's own diaries propel Doris on a journey through the twins' past that leads her at last toward a life outside her sister's long shadow, enabling her to continue her life with a contentment she had never before known. Circling endlessly around its spare, gloomy themes, this exploration of the meaning of love and individuality nonetheless provides the emotional intensity that Schaeffer's readers look for.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1996
ISBN: 0-394-58821-5
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996


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