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Laura Moisin is a painfully gorgeous girl living in Manhattan. By day she dazzles NYU professors with her feats of mental prowess. By night, she parties. Popular and seemingly indefatigable, her future gleams bright with possibility. But one afternoon her older sister, Francesca, notices something chilling. Laura has suddenly and inexplicably lost her appetite. At a Chinese restaurant in Greenwich Village, she starts toying with the chicken on her plate. Later, while her family consumes a Lucullan Christmas feast, Laura picks lethargically at the following items: five red grapes, four apple slices, three banana discs, two tangerine wedges and one chunk of Gorgonzola cheese. Soon all comestibles are scorned, and Laura’s appearance morphs from striking to frightening. Her body withers. Hair falls from her head. One day Francesca wakes to discover that her sister has transformed into a cadaverous, five-foot-seven tall stick insect called “Phasmantis.” 

Thus begins a heartbreaking and at times hilarious tale of love, loss and self-discovery. After Francesca finds herself truly alone for the first time, she must ask a few impossible questions: What happens when you realize you’re powerless to save the person you love best? And how can you help her find the strength to save herself? 

A sneak peek of my fictionalized memoir, Phasmantis: A Love Story, is below (click on the pages to read in full-screen). If you enjoyed what you read and would like more, I'd be happy to send you the rest. Just "Like" Phasmantis on Facebook, send me your email address and I'll send it your way.

Photo captions (from left):

Family 1984
Me; my father, Mihai; my mother, Michaela; and my sister, Laura. I’m six years old; my sister is three. We’re in Toronto, where we moved after escaping Romania. Our apartment was full of cockroaches and fellow Eastern European immigrants, and we were happy. 

One of our first family vacations, to Clearwater, Florida. My mom used to put us in matching outfits. As a kid, I hated it. Now when I go shopping, I somtimes buy my sister the same dress. 

Missing Tooth
Laura was so proud of the front tooth she lost. We put on our favorite fancy zebra dresses, to welcome the Tooth Fairy in style. 

At 15, I couldn’t be bothered with nuisances like a younger sister. Here we are in Florence. She’s desperate to pique my attention. I’m too cool to care. 

Even after the transformation began, I didn’t see Laura as Phasmantis. Maybe I couldn’t, or maybe I didn’t want to. To me, she was just my sister. Sometimes it feels like she’s the older one.  

Burning Towers
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Laura and I were asleep in our Soho apartment.  When the first plane smashed into the North Tower, the windows of my bedroom shook. I thought a Mack truck had crashed into the building. I grabbed my camera, ran up to the roof and started shooting.