Work Title: Clown Girl
Work Author(s): Monica Drake
336 pages, Softcover $15.95
Reviewer: Iris Blasi
Nita is a clown whose painted-on grin masks a world of sadness. The opening of Drake's breathtaking debut finds Nita dressed as Sniffles the Clown, tying an endless stream of sheep and Virgin Mary balloons (Balloon Tying for Christ was the lowest-priced how-to book she could find) for a crowd of bratty, demanding children. But then a sudden "cardiac event" leaves her breathless and disoriented and she is escorted (by a dreamy cop named Jerrod) to the hospital---where she had been just weeks before after suffering a miscarriage.
The baby was the product of her relationship with fellow clown Rex, who is off seeking an audition for a prestigious clown college while she struggles to support him by performing at corporate events. Nita can't get in touch with Rex, so he doesn't know about the miscarriage. But Nita is accustomed to grieving solo, as the theme of loss has been a refrain throughout Nita's life, starting with the death of both of her parents years earlier.
Released from the hospital with an uncertain diagnosis, the still-fragile Nita returns to her normal life---that is, if you can call any life in Baloneytown "normal." She arrives home (a co-op where she lives with her ex-boyfriend, a drug dealer named Herman, and Herman's new girlfriend) to find that her dog, Chance, has ingested some of Herman's merchandise. And then the losses continue: Nita loses the lucky rubber chicken that Rex had given her early in their relationship, the funnel for urine collection given to her by...