ANNABEL by Kathleen Winter
Kirkus Star


Email this review


In a remote coastal town in Newfoundland in the 1970s, a young person of mixed gender struggles for identity, acceptance and understanding

Joining a select group of novels including Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex (2002) and Alan Friedman's Hermaphrodeity (1972), Winter's affecting first novel is the story of Wayne Blake, who is subjected to special corrective surgery as a newborn, raised as a boy and given injections and hormone pills to maintain his masculine traits. His mother, Jacinta, a cosmopolitan-minded outsider from the city of St. John's, is torn over quashing his female qualities and interests but wants even less to go against the wishes of his closed-off father, Treadway, a trapper away for months at a time. Only Thomasina, a worldly, free-spirited midwife who privately calls the child Annabel—after the daughter she lost in a freak boating accident that also claimed her husband—asserts that nature should be allowed to take its course: "That baby is all right the way it is. There's enough room in this world." Even as Wayne unhappily goes along with the program, his body asserts its true self, most shockingly when doctors operating on him to release trapped menstrual blood discover a fetus. As Wayne comes of age, he must endure losing his closest friend Wally (a girl), being viciously attacked by bullies after he moves away to attend college and strange looks when he quits the drugs and assumes his natural self. The Montreal-based Winter, a native of Newfoundland, possesses a rare blend of lyrical brilliance, descriptive power and psychological and philosophical insight. Her way with fate and sadness recalls The World According to Garp, without the cute irony.

A compelling, gracefully written novel about mixed gender that sheds insight as surely as it rejects sensationalism. This book announces the arrival of a major writer.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8021-7082-8
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Black Cat/Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2010


FictionLAST MAN IN TOWER by Aravind Adiga
by Aravind Adiga
FictionUNTIL THE DAWN'S LIGHT by Aharon Appelfeld
by Aharon Appelfeld
FictionTHE SENSE OF AN ENDING by Julian Barnes
by Julian Barnes
FictionONCE UPON A TIME, THERE WAS YOU by Elizabeth Berg
by Elizabeth Berg


FictionGOLDEN BOY by Abigail Tarttelin
by Abigail Tarttelin