Review: Annabel


By Kathleen Winter
(Grove Press, Black Cat, Paperback, 9780802170828, January 2011, 480pp.)

The Short of It:

Annabel is incredibly moving. It will touch you, and steal your heart.

The Rest of It:

The story is simple. In a small seaside town, a baby is born a hermaphrodite. Jacinta and Treadway must decide how to raise the child. Should they raise a boy, or a girl? As Jacinta holds her baby, she knows deep down, that the baby is a girl; a beautiful daughter whom she feels a deep connection to. But Treadway has always wanted a son, and so the child is named Wayne and raised as a boy. Although this goes against everything Jacinta believes the world to be, she does not voice her feelings and goes along with it.

Jacinta’s close friend, Thomasina, also the women who helped bring Wayne into the world, knows that the child will have a complicated life down the line. These decisions are never easy ones to make, and although Wayne’s parents love him dearly, Thomasina also looks out for him, and supports him in ways his own parents can’t. Wayne’s parents do not clue him in to what’s going on with his body. It’s after it becomes medically necessary, that he finds out and it’s not even his parents who explain it to him. It’s their dear friend, Thomasina.

Wayne’s struggle to find himself is so painful at times, that I just wanted to reach into the book and give him a hug. Each character is so vividly drawn and deeply complex and wonderful in their own way. The parents are good parents. Treadway is distant as a father, but he loves his son and he has a deep sense of duty to his family. The decisions he makes, are (in his mind) for the good of the family. I cried for Jacinta. She knew from the moment she held that baby that Wayne should have been Annabel, named after Thomasina’s daughter who died with her father in a hunting accident.

What I truly appreciate, is that Winter does not shy away from the tough topics. Wayne’s upbringing affects the family as a whole, but each member of that family quietly falls apart before they become whole again. Nature vs. Nurture is a huge theme here and you see the devastating effects of both. But what makes this a very hopeful story, are the good friends Wayne meets along the way and the fact that his parents love him. The love they provide is what holds him up.

I loved this book. I adored it. My moods continued to shift as I read it and it wasn’t until the end that I began to breathe easy again. Annabel is everything that a good book should be and it’s a book that everyone should read and discuss.

Source: Borrowed

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27 thoughts on “Review: Annabel”

    1. Of course I failed to look at my iPad typing yet again,,,that is supposed to say…lovev, loved, totally loved your thoughts about this book.

  1. Wow, this sounds fantastic. I love books in which characters feel real and the situations they face are realistic. Thanks for another great review. This would be a difficult situation for any parent or child.

  2. Yeesh, Annabel sounds like an emotional roller coaster ride of a book! I’ve never read anything remotely like this and I’m incredibly intrigued to see how the author deals with gender issues throughout the novel. Adding to my TBR immediately – thanks for the review!

  3. Wow, it does sound like this was a powerful book. I think it sounds very interesting and also like something that would really pull at my heartstrings. It sounds like you had an incredibly emotional reaction to it too. I will be looking for it. Very nice review!

    1. The names are not really explained, except for Annabel’s. I have to say though, at first glance Treadway sounded like an odd name but that man became him and I never doubted his name again once I got to know him. There is a girl who befreinds Wayne and her name is Wally! I’m sure that one was intentional with the gender issues dealt with.

  4. Fantastic review. I have got to move this up in my tbr pile. I was already interested in it but you make me really want to read it.

    1. Have you read Middlesex? That is one of my fave books of all time. Deals with the same issues, but is a completely different book. I didn’t want to compare the two because they are both fantastic, but different.

  5. I started reading this book a few months ago, but I couldn’t finish it, because I had so much going at my end. I can’t wait to get back to it! The writing is beautiful!

  6. Oh man … this sounds intense and fascinating. Every since reading Middlesex, I’ve found this whole hermaphodite thing (and nature vs. nurture) so interesting. And that cover is perfect!!!!

    1. I put myself in the parents’ shoes and I could totally understand their way of thinking. It was a growth and learning process for them, as I expect it would be for any parent. Plus, a small town would not really even know how to deal with it. Not like living in a big city.

  7. You didn’t lie — another great sounding book! This has been on my radar since it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize — it sounds so good – haunting and sad — and I’m so pleased it was wonderful! Darn it!! 😉

  8. You have convinced me that this is a must read! Even though the situation is not one most of us have likely experienced, the emotions are something we can all relate to. I already feel for Wayne!

  9. I’m glad you love it Ti. I read a library copy before the Orange Prize was announced this year and feel like I want to go out and purchase a copy for myself. Kathleen Winter later dropped a comment on my blog and I thought it is such a shame that she didn’t win the Orange but I’ll gladly read anything that she has to write in the future.

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