Think back to childhood. Re-member that secret feeling you got when you were fooling around in the attic with your best friend or playing spin the bottle in the tree fort? Calgary writer Marion Douglas's third novel, Magic Eight Ball, captures those "don't let mom see" games we play as it meanders through protagonist Julia Raine's childhood, life as a single mother and gradual awareness that she's in love with her best friend -- another woman.
In Magic Eight Ball, there are no bowl-you-over surprises. In fact, details sometimes threaten to overwhelm the plot twists. But then again, the circuitous, bumpy story of Julia's life necessitates a prosaic approach. It's nothing like living in fast-paced Toronto. Life for Julia is much slower, calmer, drawing its rhythm from life in the small town of Flax, Ontario, and later from the stifling isolation she encounters in Calgary.
For much of the book, Douglas's writing aches deeply of awkward adolescent sexual awakening. Julia Raine only gets one attempt at heterosexual sex, at age 19, and becomes pregnant. She's curious about boys, but she fantasizes about her best girlfriends.
Nothing particularly traumatic happens. That is, nothing that happens to Julia comes across as terrible, because of the decidedly summer-vacation feel that marks the entire novel. But that doesn't make it uninteresting. Just don't expect the unexpected, or you'll be disappointed.