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Half life : a novel
Shelley Jackson
Adult Fiction JACKSON

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From Publishers' Weekly:

A virtuosic but gimmicky fantasy, Jackson's first novel imagines an alternate present where chemical fallout has made Siamese twins a vocal, politically active subculture. Nora Olney, 28, is a torso-conjoined bohemian "twofer" in San Francisco whose twin, Blanche, has been comatose for 15 years. At ease in neither twofer culture nor the single world, and accustomed to controlling her and Blanche's body fully, Nora decides to have "doctor-assisted individuality surgery," appealing to the shadowy Unity Foundation for surgical help even though its legal status is uncertain at best, and it will mean Blanche's death. Arriving in London and threading through the thicket of misdirection that the foundation uses for cover, Nora's reality warps: inanimate objects talk; she throws things unintentionally. As she moves closer to the surgery, Nora must contemplate the possibility that Blanche is trying to communicate with her. Jackson author of a short story collection; a "work" (titled Skin) composed solely of tattoos on the bodies of willing participants; and the hypertext novel Patchwork Girl gives equal time to the twins' eccentric upbringing in Too Bad, Nev., and the (often humorous) ephemera that Nora collects for her scrapbook, "The Siamese Reference Manual." Jackson's prose is nothing short of dazzling, but it's still not enough to give real tension to her oddball plot. (July 3) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Nora, one half of a conjoined twin, is creepy and cruelly compelling; she's cut from bad cloth and cut out for murder. Her intended victim? Blanche, of course, her comatose Siamese sister-who may or may not be waking up. In her first novel, Jackson (The Melancholy of Anatomy) creates a parallel universe as convincing as it is queer; "twofers" (conjoined twins) abound, sharing their own slang ("everytwo") and subculture. But when Nora leaves San Francisco for London, where a shadowy Doctor Death will decapitate Blanche, her story becomes increasingly odd and evermore convoluted. Readers who have been spurred along equally by the book's mystery-what does Blanche want?-and by its imaginative evocation of another world will feel frustrated by the confusing denouement and open-ended conclusion. This is a shame, because there's so much that's good here: Jackson has imagination to burn, and her writing, strange as it is, stuns. Recommended for larger public libraries and all experimental fiction collections.-Tania Barnes, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Nora Olney
Age: 28
Joined to her twin at the torso; feels like she doesn't belong in the conjoined twin culture or the single world; wants to have surgery to separate herself from her twin; believes Blanche is trying to communicate with her.

Blanche Olney
Age: 28
Nora's conjoined twin; has been comatose for 15 years.

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