LAURIE FOOS had the fine luck of having her first novel, Ex Utero, rescued from the slush pile at Coffee House Press. Ex Utero was published in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Greece, and Spain and was adapted for the stage by a small theater company in Athens, GA. A novel about a woman who loses her uterus in a shopping mall, Ex Utero was chosen for “Plot of the Week” by Entertainment Weekly, and was awarded The San Diego Current’s “Hot Tamale Award.” The novel was also featured in The Los Angeles View’s “Highlights of 1995.”
Foos’s second novel, Portrait of the Walrus by a Young Artist (subtitled “A Novel About Art, Bowling, Pizza Sex, and Hairspray”), was published in hardcover by Coffee House Press and in trade paper by Harvest Harcourt in 1997; it was also published in the UK and Germany (as Mach Mir Das Walross) that same year. Kirkus Reviews called it “A mad tale of a mad genius by a young author who may be a genius herself.” Her third novel, Twinship, published by Harcourt Brace in September 1999, was published in Germany under the title Alter Ego.
In 2012, Gemma Media published Foos’s novella, The Giant Baby.
In July 2015, Coffee House published, The Blue Girl. Early praise for The Blue Girl calls it “Foos’s best…a stunning novel about despair” (Entropy magazine) with a “swirling vortex of complicated psychologies” that makes the novel impressive and heartbreaking” (Minneapolis Star-Tribune). The Riveter named it one of the “Books to Read Summer 2015, calling it, “part fantasy but totally fantastical,” a book that will give your sweet tooth a twinge of the rottenness that exists in all of this, and a taste of the dark secrets unsaid, especially between mothers and daughters.”
Foos teaches in the BFA program at Goddard College and the MFA program at Lesley University. She lives on Long Island with her husband and two children.
– review from NRP
The Blue Girl, Foos’ sixth novel, continues in the same surrealist fashion as her previous work, but the world of questions it opens up is something else entirely. Set in a small lakeside town where the summer people flock to vacation, The Blue Girl is a charming and oftentimes beautiful book, told from the perspectives of Irene, Magda and Libby — and each of their 15-year-old daughters: six narrators with distinct points of view and their own personal brand of melancholy.
One day while swimming at the lake, Irene’s fearless young Audrey saves a girl from drowning, a mysterious girl with blue skin and hair that looks like lightning bolts. No one knows where she came from, this girl, or that she’ll soon make everything different, that she’ll play such an integral part in all of their lives.
In time, the mothers, bored and wanting, begin baking moon pies and taking them to the blue girl, who’s living in a house in the woods with an old woman for a caretaker. Inside these creamy treats lie their respective secrets and confessions, and the girl devours them all, one after the other, like some famished beast in the quiet dark of her room. Irene, Magda and Libby desire nothing more than real connection and a respite from the monotony that’s taken over their daily lives. They long for their husbands — some of whom are unreliable and mentally unstable — and they long for the fire and excitement of the unknown. Present in all of them is a sense of dread and a muted despair brought on by the crippling limitations of domestic life. But they do have one another, and they have their silent friend who says nothing — and yet seems to speak all.
“We have to tell each other more than just stories about the kids or cooking or summer gossip,” says Magda. “We have to say something about ourselves.”
Foos uses the sweetness of moon pies to entice the reader, and also to wax poetic on the futility of misplaced desire — desire pent up, leading to emotional upheavals, secrets and the complications that inevitably arise from not baring it all to those closest to us.
What can make fiction truly powerful is often what the author chooses to leave out. Because Foos never tells us exactly what the blue girl represents, it’s important to know that the answer is found in the silences. In the silences of these women, and in what we come to extract from their longing. Foos’ prose has an ethereal quality as she describes the person in the woods, and the allure surrounding her always.
“I was sitting on the porch trying to hear the trees, but I was thinking of her, the girl in the bed, blue as a dream with her mouth full of wanting.”
This novel is not so much a puzzle to be solved as it is an experience to be had. Something to be tasted and consumed, crumbs falling by the wayside along with our useless insecurities. Because in the end, it is not simply the stories we tell others, but the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves that make us who we are.