The Twisted Window

by Lois Duncan

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The story takes place in Winfield, Texas, although this is not the traditional home of either of the main characters. Tracy is transplanted there when her mother is killed in a New York City mugging, forcing her to live with her mother's sister and her husband while her actor father is on location in Europe. She vows never to get close to anyone again and views Winfield as a temporary stopover in her very unsettled life. Brad's home is in Albuquerque; his search for his "kidnapped" half sister has brought him to Winfield. The fact that both Tracy and Brad are outcasts of sorts is what unites them. Winfield is foreign territory to which neither teenager has any attachment at the book's beginning.

Literary Qualities

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This particular Duncan novel will not disappoint suspense fans. All of the author's usual strengths are here, especially the author's eye for detail which greatly enriches her plot. Duncan's trademark "surprise" is present in large doses, and the lack of a truly "bad" character makes this novel enjoyably distinctive.

Her reference to Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass is most appropriate to her own theme of deceptive appearances, evidenced by Brad's reflection in the twisted window, and by Tracy's view of the supposedly evil Gavin and his daughter. The theme of Alice's looking-glass world is further emphasized by the humorous comparison of Tracy's aunt and uncle to the characters from that fantasy, Tweedledee and Tweedledum. While such symbolism is unusual in this type of novel, its incorporation is very naturally accomplished.

Duncan's mention of familiar places and names such as a McDonald's restaurant, Seventeen magazine, and the artist Picasso allows readers to relate to Tracy's world. As usual, the author goes out of her way to make her teenage audience feel comfortable, presenting scenes from a typical high school cafeteria and locker hall.

All these aspects challenge the reader more than the typical suspense novel would, making the reading of The Twisted Window a memorable experience.

Social Sensitivity

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Although Duncan reputedly incorporates murder and violence into her suspense novels, this trait is almost nonexistent in The Twisted Window. While a rifle is introduced as a potential threat, it is used only in an accidental way which actually benefits the characters and acts as a caution to readers against handling a loaded gun. The problems of divorce and separation of children from their natural parents is thoroughly presented, but most young people of today are familiar enough with this topic to have little problem dealing with its importance in this plot. The confrontation of death of a beloved family member is a problem the two main characters share, and by the end of the book, both have come to terms with their losses.

For Further Reference

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Chevalier, Tracy, ed. Twentieth Century Children's Writers. Chicago: St. James Press, 1989. A complete listing of Duncan's works is supplied, along with reviews of several books and an overview of her life and attitudes.

Commire, Anne, ed. Something About the Author. Vol. 36. Detroit: Gale Research, 1984. Contains a lengthy narrative by Duncan, revealing her personal history and thoughts about writing.

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