Miniatures By Norah Labiner (Coffee House Press)

Norah Labiner is in love with language. She writes in a great tidal wave of words, logophilia sometimes cresting into babble as she races to tell her story, then jumps back to pick up a detail dropped in the rush, then joyously forward again. Like her first novel, Our Sometime Sister , Miniatures is a multilayered, digressive rumination on writing as a simultaneous act of confession and obfuscation. It’s narrated by Fern Jacobi, a young expatriate who becomes housecleaner and confidante to Owen and Brigid Lieb, two writers haunted by the apparent suicide of Owen’s first wife, the very Sylvia Plath-like Franny. Labiner uses the crossing strands of narrative to explore the hidden connections between biography and fiction, truth and lies. Stylistically, she’s something of a Gen-X James Joyce, spinning a tale that’s intensely inward-looking and intimate in a roiling, rambling blend of soap-commercial ditties, lovelorn lamentations and literary jokes.