40 year old Larque Harootunian is having a mid-life crisis. She’s happily married, with teenage sons. She’s also a successful painter, but there’s something wrong. Unlike other women Larque can create doppelgangers which are actually psychic manifestations of her thoughts. This however is the first time she’s made them of herself. There are three of them in the form of a very angry version of her ten year old self, a gay teenager, and the Virtuous Woman who is basically what her name implies. The story follows Larque on a voyage of self discovery and her desire to have the life she really wants.
Nancy Springer is known for her fairy-tale style fantasies so Larque On The Wing is a bit of a departure. This is actually a re-release of a 1995 book which won the Tiptree Award for gender bending science fiction. I think Magical Realism would best describe it, as the fantasy elements are commonplace in a contemporary setting. Despite having been written ten years ago it’s not really outdated except for AIDS being terminal. I found the story a little hard to get into at first, but not for long. Larque is one of those mesmerizing characters who you wish you knew in real life. Her doppelgangers are equally fascinating but if I had to pick a favorite it would be Shadow, the young gay teen who can also magically transform people into who they wish to be. In Larque’ s case this results in herself being changed into a young handsome gay man, much to the confusion and consternation of her family. This is a book that is difficult to describe. I honestly think that every reader will take away something different from it. I can say it’s one of the most thought provoking books I’ve ever read. Although I finished it several days ago, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. If you like Margaret Atwood I think you’ll enjoy this novel.