Marshall, Leslie 1953–
Marshall, Leslie 1953–
PERSONAL: Born 1953, married William Weld (a politician and ambassador).
CAREER: Writer, novelist, and journalist. InStyle magazine, contributing editor.
A Girl Could Stand Up (novel), Grove Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including Washington Post and Real Simple.
Contributing editor for InStyle magazine.
SIDELIGHTS: In author and journalist Leslie Marshall's debut novel, A Girl Could Stand Up, protagonist Elray Mayhew, age thirty-three and a filmmaker, looks back over a life lived on the edge, physically, emotionally, and socially. At age six, during a birthday outing, Elray lost her parents in a freak accident at an amusement park, where they were electrocuted in the park's Tunnel of Love. Jolted from the comfort of a traditional family setting, Elray makes her first foray to the edge when she is taken in by her Uncle Harwood—mom's brother—a footloose professional photographer, and her "Auntie" Ajax—dad's brother—a middle-aged gay cross-dresser. As the story progresses, the extended family comes to include Rena Guilfoyle, the lawyer who is suing the amusement park on her behalf, and Hansueli, Elray's psychiatrist.
Elray—short for Logan Raintree—escaped the accident with nothing more than a scar on her arm, through which her parents occasionally communicate with her and offer her advice. After meeting best friend and soulmate Raoul in the catacombs of a cathedral near her school, she develops an obsession with invincibility and invisibility, which she shares with Raoul. The two practice dying and perform ever-riskier acts in an effort to bolster their ideas of being out of the reach of harm. When a near-fatal swim finally separates the two in adolescence, Elray spends time with her grandmother, recently returned after faking her death thirty years earlier. A tense custody battle ensues, pitting grandmother against eccentric uncles, until Elray discovers how she is being manipulated. Meanwhile, Rena has an affair with Harwood but marries Ajax, eventually giving birth to twins who symbolize the best of both sides of the fractious family. Amidst the chaos, "it is confused and lonely Elray who ends up guiding the adults around her," noted Times Literary Supplement contributor Clemency Burton-Hill. As a reunion with Raoul looms, Elray examines whether invincibility is possible through love.
"Marshall's tale has all the necessary elements of a gently amusing novel, but they never really coalesce," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor. A Kirkus Reviews critic stated that the novel's "zaniness feels overworked," but concluded that "Marshall's sentence-by-sentence writing shows real flare." Burton-Hill remarked that A Girl Could Stand Up is "a touching first novel, and Elray, with her aching consciousness of time and memory, is an appealing heroine." Amanda MacGregor, writing in Kliatt, called the book a "touching, well-written novel." The book's "unforget-table cast of characters never ceases to surprise or delight," commented MacGregor. "Marshall has talent and many good and wise things to say," stated Library Journal contributor Jo Manning. "Marshall has created a memorable story about survival, love, and family," remarked a reviewer in People.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2003, review of A Girl Could Stand Up, p. 707.
Kliatt, September, 2004, Amanda MacGregor, review of A Girl Could Stand Up, p. 23.
Library Journal, June 1, 2003, Jo Manning, review of A Girl Could Stand Up, p. 167.
People, July 21, 2003, Lan N. Nguyen, review of A Girl Could Stand Up, p. 47.
Publishers Weekly, May 12, 2003, review of A Girl Could Stand Up, p. 41.
Times Literary Supplement, March 26, 2004, Clemency Burton-Hill, "Accidental Adults," review of A Girl Could Stand Up.