By Megan Harlan
Updated September 25, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

The dark aspects of twinhood, mother-daughter bonds, and Judy Garland’s life are all intertwined in Judy Garland, Ginger Love, an ambitious if occasionally overwrought debut novel from Nicole Cooley. After an unsuccessful pregnancy at 29, Alice can’t resist the plan of her unbalanced twin, Madeline, to locate their long-lost mother, Lily. A Judy Garland fanatic, motel maid, and failed dancer, Lily had raised her daughters to emulate Garland’s glamour — as well as her eating disorders (”the MGM diet”) — before abandoning them when they were 17. Throughout the sisters’ road trip, complicated Wizard of Oz references and Madeline’s disturbed antics sometimes feel forced. But in Alice’s journey to confront her past, poet Cooley smartly subverts Dorothy’s conclusion that ”there’s no place like home”: Some places can, indeed, be better. B

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