Happy Friday Sweeties and Welcome to my Blog Tour Stop for Maggie’s Ruse by Anne Leigh Parrish hosted by TLC Book Tours. I have an excerpt to share with you so let’s get started and scroll down now.
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Published: October 1, 2019
Publisher: Unsolicited Press
Genre(s): Women’s Fiction, Contemporary
Format: Paperback 272 pages
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Maggie and Marta Dugan, twenty-seven-year-old identical twins, live the good life in New York City on their stepfather’s money. Each has a glamorous calling. Maggie paints; Marta appears onstage. Success, though, eludes them. Marta’s roles are few and far between. Maggie’s endorsements are infrequent at best. When gallery after gallery passes on her work, she begins to doubt her talent. Home alone one afternoon, fueled by frustration, she is seized by a sudden, wild impulse to masquerade as Marta when a friend of hers drops by. The ruse is quickly discovered when Marta returns from another shopping spree, a rift between the sisters ensues, and they go their separate ways. But living apart proves harder than either thought at first. Each carries the other firmly within her, making any true independence nearly impossible. As the weeks pass, the weight of absence sometimes becomes difficult to bear. Both find a surprising degree of success in their respective efforts, due perhaps to their newfound freedom, yet the bond between them remains firm. Can they come back together, and under what circumstances would a reunion be viable? Has the time come for an open discussion of their issues with each other? Unable to fully answer these questions, each knows only that she needs the other to feel whole.
Maggie told Kyle what she’d done. He commended her, then told her she had the heart of a slut. She said he was channeling her mother.
“When did your mother ever call you that?” Kyle asked. He was lying on the couch. He’d had the good grace to remove his shoes first. He wore pink and white argyle socks.
“Never,” she said. “It’s just her whole attitude.”
“So, basically, she’s a bitch.”
He sat up and leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. He looked grim.
“Ever notice how parents can destroy you worse than anything?” he asked.
He’d never really talked to her about it before, but after he came out, his father refused to speak to him. He was sixteen at the time. His older brother had encouraged him, saying the truth was better than silence. Yet silence is just what he got, and wasn’t that a joke? It didn’t end there, of course. Everything he owned was gathered up, packed neatly, and left on the front porch. His key no longer fit the lock.
“Jesus. And where the hell was your mother during all this?” Maggie asked.
“She went along with the whole thing. She never crossed that man once in her whole life.”
“But she’s in touch. She called you just the other day.”
“That was the first time in almost a year. She wanted to let me know that my father isn’t doing very well. Some heart problem.” Kyle stared at the floor and shook his head. “How can a man with no heart have a heart problem?”
Maggie said in time his father might conveniently croak. Kyle’s blue eyes turned even more raw, and she saw that despite what had happened, he still loved him very much.
In the street below voices rose in strife—a furious stream of Spanish in a male register, returned by a volley in a female’s higher octave. Maggie went to the window. Her apartment was on the second floor, and her view was clear. The woman stood on the sidewalk, the man in the street. There was a child clutching the woman’s pant leg, staring up at her with empty eyes. In his free hand was a stuffed elephant. The man and woman went on yelling, and the boy shifted his gaze from the woman’s face to the sidewalk. He let go of her, dropped his toy, and kicked it a few feet one way, then back the other. Maggie figured he was about four. He was wearing green coveralls, much like ones that her younger brother, Foster, had had at that age. Foster was the youngest in the family. At the time, Maggie would only have been five, so she wasn’t sure her memory was correct. What was clear—brutal and unavoidable—was that they’d watched their parents fight the way the couple below were fighting now. Their old living room came into focus, a messy place the five children colonized; her parents facing each other; Foster in the middle with something in his hand. Then Foster ran to the tiny bedroom he shared with their older brother, Timothy, who would have been seven, maybe eight. Her parents didn’t notice his absence. They were intent only on each other. Maggie left, too, to find Foster on his bed, pulling loose threads from the bedspread, picking at it mechanically. Their mother bought that bedspread, she bought everything for everyone because their father did little but drink. As Maggie got closer, she saw that Foster’s face was wet with tears.
The shouting in the street stopped, then resumed, louder than before. Maggie pushed up hard on the reluctant window. She asked Kyle to help her get it open. When they’d raised it about eight inches, Maggie shouted: “Stop that! Stop that at once! You’re freaking out the kid!”
Three faces looked up at her. The woman gave her the finger. The boy did nothing. The man yelled something sharp, fast, and hard.
“I’m calling the cops!” Maggie waved her cell phone around.
Kyle told her to get away from the window. She was just making things worse. She withdrew.
“I wonder what it’s all about, anyway,” she said.
“Maybe one of them got caught.”
“What do you think?”
“Nah. Probably about money. Or booze.”
“I say it’s another man.”
“She looked sort of plain to me.”
“Not her, him.”
Kyle thought that inside every straight man was a gay one dying to get out. It annoyed her sometimes. She asked him once if he thought she were actually a lesbian. A shrug had been his answer. She supposed it was their common affection for the male sex that kept their friendship alive. That, and a shared love of fashion. He liked exploring the sisters’ closet. Maggie was into boots, Marta was crazy about purses. They shared these freely with each other. They were less free with their clothes because Marta liked spicy perfumes and Maggie preferred floral ones. Whatever scents they wore were permanently impressed into the fabric of their clothes. They hadn’t found a dry cleaner yet that could purge the other’s smell.
After a few minutes, Maggie returned to the window. The family was gone. Her apartment felt cramped and close. In truth, it was actually spacious, almost eighteen hundred square feet, something her mother noted without fail every month when she paid their rent.
“Let’s go out,” Maggie said.
“You just got paid!”
He patted his thigh to remind her of the designer jeans he recently bought. Kyle had to have the best of everything. He needed a sugar daddy. Maybe that’s why he was such a flirt, hoping both a good body and a big bank account would come his way. He was jealous of Maggie’s generous allowance. He thought she didn’t know about suffering, and that her work needed more agony to be respected. If agony were wanting to be loved, she had plenty of that.
But she didn’t paint to find love. She painted because she had so much inside. As long as she could remember, she wanted to capture beauty. And to own it, one must create it. Or something like that. She tried to explain it to Marta once, in one of their closer periods. Marta said she understood; she felt like that, too, but with a character on a stage, in a constructed world. The truth of portrayal was her definition of beauty. The fantasy of drama didn’t seem much compared to the reality of colors on canvas, but Maggie didn’t get into that.
When she drew bottle after bottle and doorway after doorway, was she capturing beauty? Or something deeper, like the human condition itself? In the last quarter of her two-year community college art program, one of her professors said she must render truth so well a stranger could easily recognize it.
And what exactly was she trying to say?
That bottles led to doorways. The story of her own childhood.
“Skillfully-written and absorbing, Maggie’s Ruse well displays Anne Leigh Parrish’s ample literary talents.”– KARL WENCLAS, Editor, New Pop Lit
“Maggie’s Ruse is a highly readable romp of a novel exploring identity, sisterly bonds, and the decisions that both divide and unite us.”– PAM MCGAFFIN, author of The Leaving Year
In a world full of glittering descriptions and minimal consequences, a pair of twins engagingly explore questions involving love, career, and family.
– Kirkus Reviews
Anne Leigh Parrish has worked delightful magic, creating a fresh twenty-first-century pair of spirited heroines with echoes of Becky Sharp and Scarlett O’Hara.
– Sublime Reviews
Overall, this book was a sweet story about love, sisterhood, and difficult relationships; a great read!
– San Francisco Book Review
Parrish writes fluidly, skillfully presenting descriptive pictures of the twins and their circle of friends as beneficiaries of privilege and entitlement.
– BlueInk Review
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Parrish is the author of five previously published books of fiction: Women Within, a novel (Black Rose Writing, 2017); By The Wayside, stories (Unsolicited Press, 2017); What Is Found, What Is Lost, a novel (She Writes Press, 2014); Our Love Could Light The World, stories (She Writes Press, 2013); and All The Roads That Lead From Home, stories, (Press 53, 2011). She is the author of over forty-five published short stories, and numerous essays on the art and craft of writing. Learn more by visiting her website at http://www.anneleighparrish.com.
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