Author: Kathleen Winter
Publication Year: 2010
Genre: Fiction, Canadiana
Source: Purchased from Chapters
From the cover:
Kathleen Winter’s luminous debut novel is a deeply affecting portrait of life in an enchanting seaside town and the trials of growing up unique in a restrictive environment.
In 1968, into the devastating, spare atmosphere of the remote coastal town of Labrador, Canada, a child is born: a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor fully girl, but both at once. Only three people are privy to the secret — the baby’s parents, Jacinta and Treadway, and a trusted neighbor and midwife, Thomasina. Though Treadway makes the difficult decision to raise the child as a boy named Wayne, the women continue to quietly nurture the boy’s female side. And as Wayne grows into adulthood within the hyper-masculine hunting society of his father, his shadow-self, a girl he thinks of as “Annabel,” is never entirely extinguished.
I feel like I’m doing a lot of gushing lately, but I really, really loved this book.
Having said that, I didn’t always love the things that happened in Annabel, or the way that characters acted. I think that was a large part of the point, though – to show the realities of how a situation like this might play out in a culture like that in the Maritimes.
There were also parts of the book where I felt almost personally devastated by what was happening to Wayne/Annabel. It was hard to put myself in his specific shoes, but I could feel his isolation and frustration with the ways he was treated (particularly by his father).
At times while reading, I felt like the story was starting to drag. I think that, in part, it was just that the loneliness was really coming through the pages. I’m not sure this was all of it, but it was definitely a part of it. Even when I had to push through “slow” parts, though, I still found myself drawn deeply into Wayne’s world and wanting him to end up happy.
Though Annabel wasn’t perfect, I still felt like I learned an awful lot from the experience of reading it. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who asked.