I saw ANNABEL described on librarything.com and was intrigued. Unfortunately at that time, the book was not available in the U.S. sad. I wrote it down on my Books I Want List, where it stayed for months.
And then I saw it on a shelf at work! It looked just as interesting as it had when I first read the description. I bought it, read it, and was not disappointed.
In a small, coastal Canadian town, Jacinta Blake gives birth to a baby with both female and male genitalia. Treadway, the baby's father, upon discovering this anomaly, decides that the baby is to be raised as a boy, Wayne. Thomasina, a neighbor who helped at the birth knows about the genitalia. Jacinta knows. Wayne does not know.
Treadway very much expects Wayne to be a boy. Jacinta mourns the loss of the daughter she might have had. Thomasina tries to help Wayne, in sometimes unwelcome ways, become aware of his situation.
As his parents struggle in their own ways with raising this child, Wayne knows that something is different about him, but doesn't have any idea what it is. Awareness of his complicated gender identity is a gradual realization for him.
I loved reading this, as a compelling exploration of gender and gender identity - how does gender shape us? How are we shaped by gender?
Fascinating questions, these, and I loved that this book explored this issue. More than that, however, I was captivated by the writing. Lush and rich, I was enveloped by Winter's storytelling from the very beginning.
There will be comparisons made to MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides, as both deal with hermaphrodites, but that is where the similarity ends. ANNABEL is a much more intimate novel than MIDDLESEX.
While the ending was perhaps quieter than I might have liked, I loved the story and the writing. Stunning and luminous, this book will stick with me for a long time.
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