Back cover blurb: In 1968, into the beautiful, spare, environment of remote coastal Labrador, a mysterious child is born: a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor girl, but both at once.
I jotted down notes as I read. They read as a traveler's journey through the book--Annabel.
Kathleen Winter knows Labrador. Her words paint a vibrant picture not only of the land but also of the people who live there.
'Anyone from Labrador called vegetables by their name. Cabbage. Turnip. Carrot. No matter how many individual specimens, you spoke of them as one entity. He realized Treadway thought about people in the same way. Men, to him, were all one man.' (p. 121-122)
' "We will love this baby of yours and Treadway's exactly as it was born."
"Will other people love it?"
"That baby is all right the way it is. There's enough room in this world."
This was how Thomasina saw it, and it was what Jacinta needed to hear.' (p. 26)
'It never once occurred to Treadway to do the thing that lay in the hearts of Jacinta and Thomasina: to let his baby live the way it had been born. That, in his mind, would not have been a decision. It would have been indecision, and it would have caused harm.' (p. 27)
And between what Thomasina said and in what Treadway thought, there lies the story's conflict. Need one conform to society or can one be uniquely themselves?
Kathleen Winter has a lot of talent but I think the most striking are her vivid descriptions.
Kathleen Winter has a lot to say about how males and females differ in eastern, rural Canada--their roles and their underlying believes.
In acting to protect his son, Treadway may have lost him preeminently. But he did discover that his biggest fear is a reality--Wayne does dream of being a girl.
Male--female. It's a toss of a coin, a 50/50 choice. Had the doctor guessed wrong, those many years ago? And if, he had, what now? I've studied group dynamics--formally and informally. I know that if the group identifies a person as a member, it can overlook variations that wouldn't be tolerated if seen in an outsider. Could this happen to Wayne? Will his community accept him?
' "I wouldn't call what you have a disorder. I'd call it a different order. A different order means a whole new way of being. It could be fantastic. It could be overwhelmingly beautiful, if people weren't scared." ' (p.208 - 209)
'If only the world could live in here, deep in the forest, where there were no stores, roads, windows, and doors, no straight lines. The straight lines were the problem. Rules and measurements and lines and no one to help you if you crossed them.' (p. 216)
All it took for Treadway and Jacinta to get back together was Jacinta to be practical and Treadway to remember. They got back together over a pair of men's gardening gloves.
Chapter 30 seems like a high wire act. Wayne is up there, high in the sky, on his way from male to female. Will he make it without falling? The wire is so very long and the other end too far away for him to see. How will he know when he has arrived? Will he know? He won't arrive because he will always be drawn to two realities--male, female. Is he stuck or free?
Why is Annabel my Canada Reads choice?
Well, I believe that when we learn to embrace our similarities while respecting each other's differences, Canada will be a much better place.
Sharing my author journey...
And, do you know what else...?
Kathleen Winter is the fiction judge for the short grain contest. That news inspired me to write a short story (under 2,500 words) and I'll send it away today. Authors from Canada and the United States can enter.
Two of the submissions I sent in January bounced back with encouraging words to submit other work. One read: 'very gripping and readable story'. So I polished two other stories and submitted them. Wish me. And I'll let you know what happens. : )