Wednesday, July 07, 2010

ANNABEL by Kathleen Winter (2010)

Acceptance, not its weaker cousin tolerance, is at the heart of Winter's gorgeous first novel where there is a found poem on each page. See what I mean?

he saw beauty
equal in the body of any youth
male or female
apricots growing on their own tree
right where they belonged

Or what about this one?

sadness all sons and daughters feel
sadness that stings
then melts
in a fresh wind

It's 1968 in a small Labrador town where everyone knows each other's business. When Jacinta Blake is ready to deliver her first child, she is supported by neighboring women, including Thomasina Montague who has presided over many births before. Jacinta gives birth while her trapper husband Treadway goes about his routine in the kitchen unaware that on this day their lives will be irrevocably altered.

Jacinta's baby is a rare hermaphrodite, born with both male and female sexual organs and Jacinta, Thomasina and Treadway intend to keep this truth a secret from their little community. They name the baby Wayne and a series of surgeries and hormone therapy help to forge his male identity. When Thomasina's only child, a daughter named Annabel, drowns with her father in an accident on the river, she begins to refer to Wayne privately as Annabel. Soon, Wayne begins to identify with his shadow female self by the same name.

In addition to being an unconventional bildungsroman, ANNABEL is a story about how we all strive for acceptance from those we love and from ourselves.

I hope to see this remarkable book on all of the important short lists for 2010. ANNABEL certainly deserves the literary recognition and the wider readership that such recognition brings.


Amy said...

Great review - I'm so looking forward to reading this myself. Maybe today after work :)

Janet said...

You are in for such a treat, Amy. I envy you cracking open the spine and thumbing through ANNABEL's pages for the first time.