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The first--and regrettably last--novel from an immensely talented, innovative writer who died at the end of October 1995. Raylene Stout and her cousin Jamie, whose mothers are identical twins, are inseparable best friends in small-town Lake Gladys, Louisiana. Not long after their mothers'--and Raylene's high-school sweetheart Nick's--suicides, Jamie disappears one night, leaving no forwarding address. Raylene ends up despondent in Arkansas, married to the dim-witted Buck, but when Buck cheats on her with Shirley Jack, an aerobics instructor/televangelist's wife and Raylene's former high-school classmate and rival, Raylene follows Jamie's example and runs away herself. On her Odyssey-like journey, she meets Carlotta--whose strength (and psychic powers) are in her floor-length hair--and ultimately joins the circus, where she becomes a human cannonball and falls in love. Armando, the object of her affections, is an acrobat who may or may not love her for the fortune he thinks is hers; meantime, Raylene is offered a variety of life lessons from other circus folk, including the 800-pound Alice from Dallas, who dies in the throes of passion. When Poncho the human pretzel kidnaps Raylene (he's also under the delusion that she's secretly rich) and takes her to San Francisco, she is finally reunited with Jamie and thrust into the midst of a world of transvestites and transsexuals. Her cousin is still the same old guy, except that he's no longer a he, but what eventually befalls Buck, Carlotta, Jamie, Armando, and even Shirley Jack, following Raylene's journey from Lake Gladys to Graceland to the Midwest and on to the Mission District, will come as a greater surprise than even Jamie's dramatic transformation. What Raylene--and the reader--takes away from these wild and woolly adventures is the conviction that one can finally count only on oneself. An imaginative, skillfully rendered story, as wise and insightful as it is entertaining.

Pub Date: March 18th, 1996
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Wyatt/St. Martin's