After having this recommended to me by my mother-in-law, for whom it is one of her favourite books, some time ago I was prompted to read it now as it was suggested (although not picked) for one of my book clubs. I came to it knowing quite a lot about it, that it was semi-autobiographical, about growing up in a strict religious household and coming to terms with their homosexuality, so I was interested to see how it panned out.
The plot is much as I described above. Jeanette grows up under the pervasive influence of her fundamentalist religious mother. For most of her childhood she is mostly content with her upbringing and believes she is destined for life as a missionary. However as she becomes aware of her lesbianism and starts to have relationships with other girls she finds herself rejected by the Church community and questioning the nature of her faith.
The story is interspersed with myths and fairy tales which mirror aspects of Jeanette’s life and further develop some of the themes of the book such as the reconstruction of history and what is truth. Other ideas are more obvious and common, like the hypocrisy of religion, self-discovery and developing an individual identity, then reconciling this present or future self with your past. I was also interested by what it has to say about women and different sorts of female relationships. In fact, apart from the Pastor men in the novel are largely mute and have a very peripheral role.
Whilst they were intriguing, I found the “stories” a little distracting but only because I was so engrossed in Jeanette’s own story. There are funny moments, but on the whole I found it rather tragic. It’s beautifully written, clear yet still poetic, I finished it in just a couple if sittings.