Coburn, Randy Sue
Coburn, Randy Sue
University of Washington, instructor in writing; former newspaper reporter. Commentator for the television program Would You Kindly Direct Me to Hell? The Infamous Dorothy Parker, 1994.
Independent Spirit Award nomination, 1995, for Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.
(With Alan Rudolph) Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (screenplay), 1994.
Remembering Jody (novel), Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 1999.
(With Ara Watson and Sam Blackwell; and producer) Snap Decision (teleplay), 2001.
Owl Island (novel), Ballantine (New York, NY), 2006.
Former journalist Randy Sue Coburn's first novel, Remembering Jody, tells the story of freelance writer Marsha Rose and Marsha's childhood friend, Jody Lurrey. The two are now adults, but the traumas of their childhood—spent as Jewish children in a strictly Baptist small town in South Carolina— remain with them. To those issues have been added adult challenges: Marsha is having difficulties in both her professional and love lives, and Jody has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Ten years after they last saw each other, they reunite and attempt to tackle the roots of their current problems by traveling back to South Carolina together and confronting their families and their pasts. Coburn's narrative also returns to the past, using flashbacks to slowly reveal the nature of their childhoods. Remembering Jody is "a wry and compassionate emotional roller-coaster ride from a master storyteller," Margaret Flanagan concluded in Booklist. Kim Uden Rutter, writing in the Library Journal, praised it as "a book with heart and wisdom that should appeal to a wide readership."
Coburn's second novel, Owl Island, also examines the ways in which people's experiences during their teenage years continue to impact them in their adult lives. This book centers on Phoebe Mien, who is now a middle-aged widow living on an island in Puget Sound. She has an adult daughter, who lives nearby in Seattle; a newfound romance with her longtime friend and neighbor Ivan; and a successful business selling nets to the fishermen who work the surrounding waters. Then her cozy life is turned upside-down by the reappearance of a long-ago lover, Whitney Traynor (generally known as "Whit"). The two met when Phoebe was fifteen and Whitney was a thirty-one-yearold deejay. They had a short-lived romance after Phoebe turned eighteen, which resulted in a film about Parisian artist and bohemian Kiki de Montparnasse—a film Phoebe wrote but that was credited to Whit. The relationship may also have resulted in Phoebe's daughter Laurienne, something Laurienne does not realize. At the beginning of the novel, "Coburn smartly reveals only the Whit that young Phoebe sees—stylish, brilliantly idiosyncratic and in love," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic. "Not until later does middleaged Phoebe (and the reader) perceive an altogether different Whit, unprotected by the flush of youth." Booklist reviewer Allison Block praised another aspect of Coburn's writing, noting that "her depictions of the Pacific Northwest—with its windswept beaches and cedar-scented air—are evocative and rich."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, Margaret Flanagan, February 15, 1999, review of Remembering Jody, p. 1039; March 15, 2006, Allison Block, review of Owl Island, p. 26.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2006, review of Owl Island, p. 310.
Library Journal, February 15, 1999, Kim Uden Rutter, review of Remembering Jody, p. 182; April 1, 2006, Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, review of Owl Island, p. 81.
Publishers Weekly, November 16, 1998, review of Remembering Jody, p. 53; April 10, 2006, review of Owl Island, p. 48.