The Soft Room
Abby and Meg are nearly identical twins, with one major exception: Meg was born with a rare disease that renders her impervious to physical pain. As a child, this "ability" soon makes her contemptuous of the whimperings of children with their skinned knees and busted lips—despite medical warnings that the disease could eventually cost her life if she weren’t careful to pay attention to bleeding and physical aches. The disdain over her physical imperviousness grows into a pre-teen haughtiness over her psychic superwoman self until the family is economically forced by her father’s cancer to submit Meg to paying medical research. Suddenly, Meg is one of many abnormals, and like solitary high school geniuses thrown into a select university setting of hundreds of solitary geniuses, the plot thickens.
In her subtly blaring novel, Heuler has touched on sibling jealousy, animal abuse, medical research abuse, the boundaries of romantic love, the loss of a parent, the loss of economic status—and the general confusion of growing into and beyond maturity. The absorbing maze scene in the research hospital, with its rows of specimens and abnormals, offers an amazing microscosm of all this in itself. This is Karen’s first novel. She has published a short story collection, The Other Door, with the University of Arkansas Press.
ISBN, trade paper: 1-931982-32-5, $14.95 Sale $7.50
ISBN, library edition:1-931982-31-7, $25.00 Sale $12.50
Karen Heuler has published extensively in literary and commercial periodicals ranging from Ms magazine to TriQuarterly Review. In 1995 the University of Missouri published The Other Door, her first short story collection. The New York Times praised these stories, saying they were "haunting and quirky … the line between reason and reverie is dissolved; here even the most fantastic seems possible." She won an O. Henry prize in 1998, and in 2002 and 2003 won awards from Night Train magazine and Serpentine, an online periodical. Her stories have been short-listed for the O. Henry awards in 2001, received special mention in the Pushcart Awards 2000, and reached the ranks of finalist in the Iowa Short Fiction Awards and semifinalist for the Nelson Algren Award. She lives and writes in New York.
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were golden-haired, those twins. They were square-faced with thick eyebrows and
strong chins. They had eyes of slate-blue, each with three golden flecks, and
abnormally large, dilated pupils. Their mouths were generous and determined.
Strong, vibrant girls, they grabbed immediately at anything in reach. Robust,
lusty, big babies, their lungs like bellows, accordion-hearted, they expanded
and contracted from joy to sorrow, trumpeting with outrage and gurgling with
glee. And, no matter what the emotion, even with their crinkled eyelids
half-shut on some large sensation, they checked each other to see if their