Review: Copycat

Copycat Copycat by Kimberla Lawson Roby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Women are complicated beautiful creatures, whose attitudes and behaviors are shaped by numerous factors. Whether biological or psychosocial, these behaviors combined with environmental and socioeconomic determinants can lead to disaster for their loved ones.

Traci, a well-known black author, befriends a passionate supporter of her literary art, Simone, living in her hometown, igniting a fiery, parasitic alliance. Wielding her admiration and irascible fascination of Traci as a skilled Samurai, Simone begins chipping away at every detail of her role model’s life, yielding the perfect copy. As a young girl, Simone loses her identity of self as a result of sexual assault and other traumatic childhood experiences. As the damaged daughter of a drug-addicted mother, she succumbs to the fate of absorbing the identities of others. Plagued by deep-rooted emotional issues, Simone spends most time alone until she meets Traci at a local hair salon.

Simone has high aspirations of becoming a romance novelist. Albeit naively, Traci believes she has finally met someone who shares her passion for writing and an ethereal literary connection forms. Later, as Traci's family witnesses Simone's transformation, the toxic fascination comes to light, disentangling the fairytale world as voices from past begin to speak.

Roby, though not in the eyes of some, expertly shares the psychological makeup of each woman, through allegories and character behaviors, while also laying the foundation for a suspenseful tale. Moreover, she carefully threads psycho-spiritual insights, interwoven with admonitory advice for the female author. This is an important theme in women’s fiction. While there appears to be increasing focus on adultery and other lascivious behavior in mainstream womens fiction, Roby takes on a more opaque, almost noir issue – mental illness in African-American women. Perhaps, it is the society in which we live that predicates what we look like and how we succeed. But, when a woman loses her sense of self at a young age, it forces any female reader to ask if she is being her true and authentic self. Could it be a reaction to austerity and asceticism? Possibly. But, introspective fiction, where the tough subjects are brought to light, is a necessary vice in order for us to survive.

Though short, this novella is rich and rewarding, allowing for the development of a psychologically thrilling tale featuring common issues successful women of color face. Roby developed both the protagonist and antagonist in a manner that would have been overly done were she to satisfy the structural demands of a traditional novel. Moreover, she purposely and concisely provided a detailed exploration of the actions and mindset of women, one of whom may have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, and provided a concentrated focus on the story of two women who needed female companionship, and almost lost everything because of it.

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