Book Review: Louis & Louise
(I've previously interviewed Julie Cohen on her book here)
I had fun comparing the parallel lives of Louis and Louise, which is the central premise of the book. The subtle differences in how the characters viewed their family, their friends, their relationships, and the different paths taken despite having identical desires and ambitions are intriguing to ponder. Alternate universes and mental exercises as presented in this novel can help us explore aspects of our lives that we may not have considered. It makes me wonder if I had been born a man, would I have fallen for the same person and made the same choices? Would the events in my life even happen as they have done? Some of my experiences happened because I am a cis woman, as did some of the experiences that happened to Louise, and to Louis because he is a man.
One of my favorite relationships within the novel is the story of Louis/Louise's parents. Julie writes mature love between people who have known each other for decades in a way that is tender and real, something that few authors can really present without being mushy. The relationships developed between Louis/Louise and their childhood friends are also engaging and sincere, which makes what happens even more shocking and terrible.
Personally, while I enjoyed this book for what it offers as a thought experiment, I was less emotionally engaged than when I read Together (Julie's previous novel). Perhaps it was because I kept switching perspectives between Louis and Louis, and the interjections among the chapters about how their lives are similar helped me distance myself emotionally, like little rest stops before another trek. Julie's humor, empathy and warmth still shine through her love for her characters, and the premise is developed fully in the unfolding of Louis/Louise's stories.