Dr. Erica Bauer — an identical twin — studies twins at the university in Vancouver. Through the course of her research, she meets a set of preteen twins who are evidently fraternal, but who insist emphatically that they are identical. Their mother, Karen Oxley, is a West Van single mum whose life is on the wrong road — and who discovers an urgent need to put it back on the right one. As Erica sets out to help the twins, their family’s lives become increasingly intertwined with hers in unexpected ways.
Twin Studies is a masterful novel that explores the complicated bonds between twins and siblings, friends and lovers; the role of class and money; and the nature of gender and sexuality. It’s a novel with characters who are real, their relationships a rich world that readers will thoroughly lose themselves in. No other contemporary novel so deftly explores the intersection between our inner lives and our public lives — that “we’re not what people see.”
Keith Maillard is the author of fourteen novels, including Two Strand River, Gloria, The Clarinet Polka, Difficulty at the Beginning, and most recently Twin Studies. He has won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Literary Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Awards. Keith was born and raised in West Virginia, and now lives in Vancouver. He has been a musician, a contributor for CBC Radio, a freelance photographer, and a journalist. He teaches at the University of British Columbia.
The year is 1969, and young Jimmy Koprowski returns from his stint in the airforce to Raysburg, his blue-collar Polish American hometown where nothing much happens beyond working at the steel mill, going to Mass, and getting drunk at the local PAC. Jimmy's efforts at rebuilding his life result in sleeping off hangovers in his parents' attic and drifting into a destructive affair with a married woman.
But things change when his younger sister Linda decides to start an all-girl polka band, and Jimmy falls for the band's star clarinetist, Janice, whose young life is haunted by tragic events that happened before she was born. The threads of Jimmy's family life, the legacy of WWII Poland, and the healing power of music, language, and tradition all begin to converge.
At once gritty and compassionate, moving and witty, The Clarinet Polka showcases the emotional and perfectly pitched voice of a lost soul finding his way.
Morgantown is a masterful ensemble piece centering around John and peopled by his unforgettable friends in the out crowd: Bill Cohen, the sharpshooting, knife-throwing Zen Buddhist Harvard scholar; Marge Levine, the political radical with the Nefertiti eyes; and William Revington, the scion of old money who has the world on a platter and can't think of a single thing to do with it. And then theres his girl-friends and sexual obsessions: Carol Rabinowitz, the Wyatt scholar and Jewish American Princess; Natalie, the folk-singing boy-girl with the mind of a scientist; Cassandra Markapolous, whom John loves but is not allowed to be in love with.
And, there's the Alice in the photograph, the boy dressed up as a girl dressed up as another girl, on and on endlessly reflecting: a hall of mirrors that threatens to draw John into its vortex.
It's oppressively hot, the kind of heat that makes it practically impossible to do anything, or even think straight—and if John's brains aren't addled enough by the temperature, there’s the endless obsession with girls—the persistent problems of his old flame Cassandra Markapolous and her younger sister Zoë. There's also the massive Civil War novel he’s been studiously not working on. And to make things worse, LBJ's starting to call up the reserves. This is John in that gruelling summer waste land, a fat, broke, horny, unemployed, draft-eligible, Buddhist Confederate, who, if he doesn't do something drastic, is going to find his fat, broke, horny ass shipped overseas to get it shot off.
Lyndon Johnson and the Majorettes is a delightful performance, a crackerjack novella that works on multiple levels, as intoxicating as a mint julep and as tightly wound as the spring in a homemade time-bomb.