Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Early Review

First Person Plural by Andrew W.M. Beierle

First Person Plural has a premise that sounds almost ridiculous. It tells the story of conjoined twins who have two heads, two hearts, two sexual orientations—and one set of sex organs. From the perspective of the narrator—Owen, the gay twin—the reader travels on a very strange, but surprisingly believable, journey as each twin comes to terms with their shared condition and they negotiate the numerous difficulties that they face.

For the first 75 pages or so of the book, I found myself flipping to the author photo in the back, wondering if he was hiding a second head somewhere in the shadows. The story felt that real! The book does require a certain suspension of disbelief, though; the straight twin, Porter, plays quarterback for the high school football team and dates a cheerleader. The pair become semicelebrities, forming a rock band and touring the country. They encounter people fascinated by their condition and surprisingly few who find them out-and-out revolting. They each explore their sexuality—the one who’s trying to check out of the action mentally often wears headphones.

All of that is compelling, and indeed when I turned the last page I found myself wondering how things would work out for Porter and Owen. But toward the end of the novel one of the characters goes from heart warmer to harridan in a quick turn of events that threatens the pair’s carefully organized life. Obviously a plot needs some sort of conflict to carry on, but this particular upset, and the consequences it has for all of the characters, seemed to come a bit late in the game.

Nevertheless, First Person Plural is easily one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read in a long time; the oddity of having two heads creates a sort of hyper-reality through which Owen views life’s ups and downs more clearly and philosophically than the typical one-headed person. A quick and engrossing read, and definitely worth checking out.

This review will be posted on when this book is released on August 28. The publisher provided an early review copy.

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