My Brother's Name

‘My Brother’s Name’

By Laura Krughoff (Scarletta Press, $14.95)

The premise — a woman pretending to be a man — isn’t especially new, when one considers all of Shakespeare’s cross-dressing characters. But Laura Krughoff bends that premise into a psychological exploration of mental illness, family loyalty and sexual identity in the enthralling new novel, “My Brother’s Name.”

“First, I am not the girl who tried to be her brother any more,” Krughoff’s narrator, Jane, tells readers. “The years have spun out between that person and me like sugar spun into cotton candy.”

Jane and her older brother, John, are cut from the same cloth. They share the same fine features, as well as similar tastes in music. When John experiences a psychotic break after going off to college and struggles with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, Jane is his lifeline, the person he trusts to take him somewhere safe to recover.

And so begins Krughoff’s tense, often disturbing story of blurred boundaries. Jane begins to assume John’s identity, finding work at a record store and passing as her brother. Here, she explores a relationship with a young woman while being coached in conversation by her increasingly unstable brother.

Here’s where Krughoff’s talent shines as she normalizes the improbable ruse and ensnares the reader as an accessory to the deception. “My Brother’s Name” is a compelling case study in shared sibling psychosis, as well as a taut exploration of identity.

Krughoff, who teaches creative writing at Loyola University in Chicago, will read from and sign copies of “My Brother’s Name” at A Room of One’s Own, 315 W. Gorham St., at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. For more, visit roomofonesown.com or laurakrughoff.com.

— Jeanne Kolker, State Journal

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