Monday, February 20, 2012

"Friends Like Us"

Lauren Fox is the author of Still Life with Husband. She earned her MFA from the University of Minnesota in 1998, and her work has appeared in the New York Times, Marie Claire, Seventeen, Glamour, and Salon.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Friends Like Us, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Friends Like Us turns out to be a surprisingly good representation of many of the themes and stories weaving through the novel. Willa, the 26-year-old protagonist, and her best friend Jane are having dinner with Jane’s parents, in the house where she grew up. Willa can’t help but notice, with a bit of longing, how nice and normal Jane’s parents are, especially compared to her own fractured, fractious family. She’s struck by the ways a happy, functioning family builds a person up, as opposed to creating the layers of awkwardness, neediness, and insecurity that she feels are the legacy of her upbringing. If, in the novel, Jane is something of a mirror for Willa – they are so alike in many ways, but the choices they make, ultimately, are completely opposed – it’s here, in this scene, that we see the roots of both their similarities and their differences:
Mrs. Weston upends a slab of casserole onto her plate and looks at me carefully. “You and Janey really do resemble each other,” she says. “Even I can see it.”

My thoughts careen past each other like eleven-year-old boys on ice skates, skidding, flailing. Family outings that turned into screaming matches between my parents. Days when they would only talk to each other through Seth and me. The time Fran sat down at the table in front of the lasagna she’d made, clearly pleased with herself, and Stan looked at the dinner, rolled his eyes at me and Seth, then turned to my mother with a grin on his face and said, “Oh, my favorite! Cold, congealed, salty lasagna! How did you know?” He was an expert at taking her down, a master of the surprise attack.

I look down and notice suddenly that I’ve been picking the cornflakes off the surface of my tuna casserole. Quickly, I shuffle them back to their home. “We could eat the leftovers for breakfast tomorrow!” For one fleeting, hopeful breath I believe that maybe I’ve just thought this and not said it out loud. But then Mrs. Weston, Mr. Weston, and Jane all stop eating at the same time and look at me. The refrigerator motor hums. Mrs. Weston’s geese lift off from the plates, flutter their wings, and circle around my head. So long, everyone! Thanks for the Jell-O!

After a few seconds, Jane laughs, a snort of sisterly derision, reaches across the table and pats my hand. “Sure we could, sweetie.”
Learn more about the book and author at Lauren Fox's website.

--Marshal Zeringue