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IN BRIEF

Fiction

August 04, 1996|ERIKA TAYLOR

THE GOLDEN ROPE by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer (Knopf: $25, 371 pp.). Twins are like angels and time travel: They seem to hold some sort of metaphorical component that taps into a deep part of our collective imagination. It has gotten to the point where successfully featuring twins in an artistic endeavor is very difficult unless you have something completely new to say. In many ways, Susan Fromberg Schaeffer's 10th novel, "The Golden Rope," circumvents this problem, since it is primarily a book about identity rather than twins. But in spite of the depth and beauty of Fromberg Schaeffer's writing, the novel suffers from Twin Syndrome--a sort of sophisticated cliche.

Doris and Florence, the twins in question, have an almost psychic bond. As children, they seem interchangeable, even to themselves. Later, a fierce battle erupts between them as Florence attempts to free herself from the deeply symbiotic nature of their relationship. None of this is out-and-out predictable or even uninteresting, yet it feels like well-worn ground nevertheless. This is sad because regardless of the subject matter, Fromberg Schaeffer is a highly accomplished writer.

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