Annabel

Annabel

by Kathleen Winter

Paperback

$15.04 $16.00 Save 6% Current price is $15.04, Original price is $16. You Save 6%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, February 27

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802170828
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 01/04/2011
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 590,084
Product dimensions: 6.38(w) x 8.56(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Kathleen Winter's Annabel was a New York Times Editors’ Choice, short-listed for The Orange Prize for Fiction, and a finalist for all three of Canada's major literary awards: The Scotiabank Giller Prize, Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, and Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction. Her first collection of short stories, boYs , was the winner of both the Winterset Award and the 2006 Metcalf-Rooke Award. A long-time resident of St. John's, Newfoundland, Winter now lives in Montreal.

Visit her blog at kathleenwinter.livejournal.com

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

New World

Wayne Blake was born at the beginning of March, during the first signs of spring breakup of the ice — a time of great importance to Labradorians who hunted ducks for food — and he was born, like most children in that place in 1968, surrounded by women his mother had known all her married life: Joan Martin, Eliza Goudie, and Thomasina Baikie. Women who knew how to ice-fish and sew caribou hide moccasins and stack wood in a pile that would not fall down in the months when their husbands walked the traplines. Women who would know, during any normal birth, exactly what was required.

The village of Croyden Harbour, on the southeast Labrador coast, has that magnetic earth all Labrador shares. You sense a striation, a pulse, as the land drinks light and emits a vibration. Sometimes you can see it with your naked eye, stripes of light coming off the land. Not every traveller senses it, but those who do keep looking for it in other places, and they find it nowhere but desert and mesa. A traveller can come from New York and feel it. Explorers, teachers, people who know good hot coffee and densely printed newspapers but who want something more fundamental, an injection of New World in their blood. Real New World, not a myth that has led to highways and more highways and the low, radioactive buildings that offer pancakes and hamburgers and gasoline on those highways. A traveller can come to Labrador and feel its magnetic energy or not feel it. There has to be a question in the person. The visitor has to be an open circuit, available to the power coming off the land, and not everybody is. And it is the same with a person born in Labrador. Some know, from birth, that their homeland has a respiratory system, that it pulls energy from rock and mountain and water and gravitational activity beyond earth, and that it breathes energy in return. And others don't know it.

Wayne was born, in bathwater, in the house of his parents, Treadway and Jacinta Blake. Treadway belonged to Labrador but Jacinta did not. Treadway had kept the traplines of his father and he was magnetized to the rocks, whereas Jacinta had come from St. John's when she was eighteen to teach in the little school in Croydon Harbour, because she thought, before she met Treadway, that it would be an adventure, and that it would enable her to teach in a St. John's school once she had three or four years of experience behind her.

"I would eat a lunch of bread and jam every day," Joan Martin told Eliza and Thomasina as Jacinta went through her fiercest labour pains in the bathtub. Every woman in Croydon Harbour spoke at one time or another of how she might enjoy living on her own. The women indulged in this dream when their husbands had been home from their traplines too long. "I would not need any supper except a couple of boiled eggs, and I'd read a magazine in bed every single night."

"I'd wear the same clothes for a week," Eliza said. "My blue wool pants and grey shirt with my nightie stuffed under them. I would never take off my nightie from September till June. And I would get a cat instead of our dogs, and I would save up for a piano."

The women did not wish away their husbands out of animosity — it was just that the unendurable winters were all about hauling wood and saving every last piece of marrow and longing for the intimacy they imagined would exist when their husbands came home, all the while knowing the intimacy would always be imaginary. Then came brief blasts of summer, when fireweed and pitcher plants and bog sundews burst open and gave the air one puff, one tantalizing scented breath that signalled life could now begin, but it did not begin. The plants were carnivorous. That moment of summer contained desire and fruition and death all in one ravenous gulp, and the women did not jump in. They waited for the moment of summer to expand around them, to expand enough to contain women's lives, and it never did.

When Jacinta was not groaning with the mind-stopping agony of having her pelvic bones wrenched apart by the baby that was coming, she too indulged in the dream. "I don't believe I'd stay here at all," she told her friends as she poured scalding coffee from the small enamel pot, her belly as big as a young seal under her blue apron covered in tiny white flowers. "I'd move back to Monkstown Road and if I couldn't get a job teaching I'd get my old job back at the Duckworth Laundry, washing white linen for the Newfoundland Hotel."

Thomasina was the only woman who did not indulge. She had not had a father, and she regarded her husband, Graham Montague, with great respect. She had not got over the fact that he could fix anything, that he did not let the house grow cold, that he was the last man to leave for his traplines and the first to come home to her, that he was blind and needed her, or that he had given her Annabel, a red-haired daughter whom she called my bliss and my bee, and who helped her father navigate his canoe now that she was eleven years old and had a head on her as level and judicious as Thomasina's own. Graham was out now, as were all the hunters in Croydon Harbour, on the river in his white canoe, and Annabel was with him. She rode the bow and told him where to steer, though he knew every movement he needed to make with his paddle before Annabel told him, since before she was born he had travelled the river by listening and could hear every stone and ice pan and stretch of whitewater. He told her stories in the canoe, and her favourite was a true story about the white caribou that had joined the woodland herd and that her father had encountered only once, as a boy, before he had the accident that blinded him. Annabel looked for the white caribou on every trip, and when Thomasina told her it might not be alive any more, or it might have gone back to its Arctic tribe, her husband turned his face towards her and silently warned her not to stop their daughter from dreaming.

As her baby's head crowned, Jacinta's bathroom brimmed with snow light. Razor clam shells on her windowsill glowed white, and so did the tiles, the porcelain, the shirts of the women and their skin, and whiteness pulsed through her sheer curtains so that the baby's hair and face became a focal point of saturated colour in the white room; goldy brown hair, red face, black little eyelashes, and a red mouth.

Down the hall from Jacinta's birthing room, her kitchen puckered and jounced with wood heat. Treadway dropped caribou cakes into spitting pork fat, scalded his teabag, and cut a two-inch-thick chunk of partridgeberry loaf. He had no intention of lollygagging in the house during the birth — he was here for his dinner and would slice through Beaver River again in an hour in his white canoe. His hat was white and so were his sealskin coat and canvas pants and his boots. This was how generations of Labrador men had hunted in the spring.

A duck could not tell a white hunter's canoe from an ice pan. The canoe, with the hunter reclining in it, slid dangerously through the black water, silently slowing near the flock, whether the flock flew high overhead or rested their fat bellies on the water's skin. Treadway lived for the whiteness and the silence. He could not see with his ears as Graham Montague could, but he could hear, if he emptied himself of all desire, the trickle of spring melt deep inland. He could inhale the medicinal shock of Labrador tea plants with their leathery leaves and orange, furry undersides, and watch the ways of flight of the ducks, ways that were numerous and that told a hunter what to do. Dips and turns and degrees of speed and hesitation told him exactly when to raise his gun and when to hide it. Their markings were written on the sky as plain as day, and Treadway understood completely how Graham Montague could hit ducks accurately even though he was blind, for he had himself noticed the constant mathematical relationship between the ducks' position and the hollow, sweeping sounds their wings made, a different sound for each kind of turning, and their voices that cracked the silence of the land. The movements of the ducks were the white hunter's calligraphy.

This was a kind of message younger people had lost, but Treadway was attuned to every line and nuance. There were words for each movement of a duck, and Treadway had learned all of the words from his father. People five years younger than he knew only half the words, but Treadway knew them all, in his speech and in his body. This was how he lived, by the nuances of wild birds over land and water, and by the footprints and marks of branches in snow on his trapline, and the part of him that understood these languages detested time in houses. Clocks ticked, and doilies sat on furniture, and stagnant air rushed into his pores and suffocated him. It was not air at all, but suffocating gauze crammed with dust motes, and it was always too warm. If the women dreaming of life without their husbands could know how he felt, they would not imagine themselves single with such gaiety. Treadway did not tell this to other men, laughing over broken buns of hot bread and pots of coffee, but he dreamed it nonetheless. He dreamed living his life over again, like the life of his great-uncle Gaetan Joseph, who had not married but who had owned a tiny hut one hundred miles along the trapline, equipped with hard bread, flour, split peas, tea, a table made out of a spruce stump with two hundred rings, a seal-hide daybed, and a tin stove. Treadway would have read and meditated and trapped his animals and cured pelts and studied. Gaetan Joseph had studied Plutarch and Aristotle and Pascal's Pensées, and Treadway had some of his old books in his own trapper's hut, and he had others besides that he read deep into the nights when he was blessed with the solitude of his trapline. A lot of trappers did this. They left home, they trapped, and they meditated and studied. Treadway was one of them, a man who studied not just words but pathways of wild creatures, pulsations of the northern lights, trajectories of the stars. But he did not know how to study women, or understand the bonds of family life, or achieve any kind of real happiness indoors. There were times he wished he had never been seduced by the pretty nightgowns Jacinta wore, made of such blowy, insubstantial ribbons and net that they would not have enough strength to hold the smallest ouananiche. The closest thing to these nightgowns in his world outdoors was the fizz of light that hung in a veil around the Pleiades. He had a Bible in his trapper's library, and he remembered his wife's loveliness when he read the lines Who can bind the sweet influence of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? He read these lines on his hard daybed when he had been away from her for months, and they made him remember her loveliness. But did he ever tell her this? He did not.

Home from the trapline, recovered from all loneliness, Treadway loved his wife because he had promised he would. But the centre of the wilderness called him, and he loved that centre more than any promise. That wild centre was a state of mind, but it had a geographical point as well. The point was in an unnamed lake. Canadian mapmakers had named the lake but the people who inhabited the Labrador interior had given it a different name, a name that remains a secret. From a whirlpool in the centre of that lake, river water flows in two directions. It flows southeast down to the Beaver River and through Hamilton Inlet and past Croydon Harbour into the North Atlantic, and another current flows northwest from the centre, to Ungava Bay. The whirling centre was the birthplace of seasons and smelt and caribou herds and deep knowledge that a person could not touch in domesticity. Treadway left this place at the end of the trapping season and faithfully came back to his house, which he had willingly built when he was twenty, but he considered the house to belong to his wife, while the place where waters changed direction belonged to him, and would belong to any son he had.

And now the head of his and Jacinta's first baby glittered beautifully in the white bathroom without his witnessing it, and so did the shoulders, the belly with its cord, the penis, thighs, knees, and toes. Thomasina hooked a plug of slime out of the baby's mouth with her pinky, slicked her big hand over face, belly, buttocks like butter over one of her hot loaves, and slipped the baby back to its mother. It was as the baby latched on to Jacinta's breast that Thomasina caught sight of something slight, flower-like; one testicle had not descended, but there was something else. She waited the eternal instant that women wait when a horror jumps out at them. It is an instant that men do not use for waiting, an instant that opens a door to life or death. Women look through the opening because something might be alive in there. What Thomasina knew, as she looked through the opening this time, was that something can go wrong, not just with the child in front of you, another woman's child, but with your own child, at any time, no matter how much you love it.

Thomasina bent over Jacinta and the baby in a midwife's fashion, a ministering arc, and wrapped a blanket around the child, a cotton blanket that had been washed many times. She did not believe in putting anything new or synthetic next to a newborn's skin. As she adjusted the blanket she quietly moved the one little testicle and saw that the baby also had labia and a vagina. This she took in as Treadway, in another room, threw his teabag in the garbage, as he gave his crust to the dog and clicked shut the front door, as he went out on the last perfect duck hunt of his days, and she let Treadway go. Thomasina asked Eliza and Joan to get the warm towels for Jacinta. She herself handed Jacinta the thick pad to soak up the postpartum blood, and helped her into the terrycloth robe that Jacinta would wear for the next few days.

Then she said, "I'm going to ask the others to leave, if it's all right with you. We have something to talk about."

CHAPTER 2

Beaver River

Had Wayne not been born in 1968 in a place where caribou moss spreads in a white-green carpet, and where smoke plumes from houses, and where gold sand is so remote no crowds gather — the sand is a lonely stretch under the northern lights — things might have gone differently. Treadway was not an unkind man. His neighbours said he would give you the shirt off his back — and if that shirt had not been full of sweat from hauling wood and skinning animals and auguring ice, he might indeed have done so. He was a softhearted man when it came to anyone he felt was less practically talented than himself, and this covered a lot of people. He would help a man split wood, build a house, or cut a hole in the right place in the ice, not to show off his superior skills but to save the man time. He did these things out of pure helpfulness, with kindness thrown in.

Pure kindness he saved for his dogs. On one hunting trip he had accidentally shot the eye of his old English setter, a mild-mannered dog whose jaw quivered with tenderness around any bird Treadway asked it to carry. Treadway had ended the trip although it meant he would have to launch it again later, at considerable expense in provisions and time, in order to have enough duck in store for the winter. He had carried the dog a hundred miles on his sled and paid Hans Nilsson the veterinarian a hundred dollars to get up in the middle of the night and tend to the wound, and when Hans told him the dog had to lose the eye, Treadway cried because it was his fault, and he did not eat again himself until the dog could eat, not even when Jacinta fried meat cakes with knobs of pure white pork fat and juniper berries in them. He believed sight to be something the dog loved, valued, and even enjoyed, and it hurt him deeply that he had ruined the dog's ability to practise the talent for which bird dogs are born. He kept the dog though it could no longer hunt, and no one in Treadway's ancestry had ever kept a dog that was just a pet, until the dog grew old. Only when the dog grew so arthritic it could not walk without pain did Treadway consent to have it put down, and on that day he walked to the river and stared at the water for more than an hour, thinking about not just how he had failed his dog but how he could be a better man all around if he paid more attention to every detail and let nothing pass that was off-kilter.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Annabel"
by .
Copyright © 2010 Kathleen Winter.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Annabel 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
TiBookChatter More than 1 year ago
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.
MandieSue76 More than 1 year ago
I had high hopes for this book, with all the acclaim that came with it, but I found it tiring and boring. It was an effort to get all the way through it, and was quite anti-climactic. It did tell a lovely coming-of-age and finding-herself hermaphrodite, after having been raised a boy; her story was not shocking, but caring and empathetic. The author wove the story full of imagination so that you could really see the surroundings of the main character. I just felt that it lacked excitement, or even enough drama to keep the book interesting. I thought several times about putting it down but was bound and determined to finish and not be a quitter. Bottom line, I would not recommend this book; there are others out there that are better written, and more enjoyable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Annabel is an insightful psychological story about differences, differences between people, between environments, between the sexes, between those with vision and those without. I'd recommend it to anyone. I would have given it a 5 star rating if Kathleen Winter hadn't kind of derailed the novel with what I think was a physical impossibility. Aside from a temporary detour from her story about the ability to live with ambiguity, I found the story very realistic, a good portrait of humanity and yearning
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book very much. The subject is refreshingly different, the characters come alive, and the content is rich. I cannot believe this was the authors debut! I cannot wait to read more from her. I could go and and on, but instead i will simply say; I highly recommend this book.
Peetie More than 1 year ago
I was intrigued by the subject, the tensions and the setting. The author has created a highly intriguing novel that I did not want to put down and was disappointed when I finished it. All of the major characters are intriguing in their own right - read this book.
crazybatcow on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is an excellent book. The author tells a poignant story without leading the reader to judge anyone's behavior or decisions.The "scene" is wonderfully set: 1968 rural Labrador (nearly-Northern Canada, very isolated and "rustic" living environment) where a true hermaphrodite child is born. Even today this would be a challenging and difficult moment for parents, now imagine 40 years ago in a rural hunting/fishing community.There is no sense of judgment as to whether or not the parents made the "right" choice, or handled it the right way - they made the choice they did, knowing what they know. I can't imagine what any parent would do if they had to decide just after birth, what gender they should choose for their child.And how would they feel about themselves if they chose wrong? When do you tell your child? At what age will he/she be old enough to understand, or to forgive your decision on their gender?Some terrific questions explored via Wayne/Annabel as he/she grows up.
Bcteagirl on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I just finished reading [Annabel] by Kathleen Winter. I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in Canadian literature, gender, rural/northern communities, etc. This book is set in rural Labrador where a couples first born child is born a hermaphrodite. From there they must decide which sex to raise their child, and deal with both the medical, social, and philosophical implications.The author did a wonderful job with the setting and characters. One thing I like in stories is being able to get into the day to day life of the characters and explore different times/places. This book does this very well. I felt all the characters were all likable in their own way. The book leads you to question your own perceptions, not only in what you would have done as the parent, but also what you would have done as the main character. I would have liked a more detailed ending, but that is true of most books :P Recommended reading! :)
EvelynBernard on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Annabel is a book to savour. My original intention was to give it a quick read, review and be done - however, a few pages into it - I knew I wanted to enjoy this book for a while.A child is born in 1968 in rural Labrador - on the surface all is not well. This book shows us that who are we to say what is well and what is not? Ms. Winter has created characters who look at the situation in which they find themselves, explore their thoughts and feelings about the situations, examine their options and deal with the consequences of their actions.The characters rang true for me. Each had a different way of coping with life and each one was able to examine the story from a different perspective. Each was likable in his/her own way and Ms. Winter breathed life into them. They were all well developed and, in my opinion, this character development in the backbone of this book.Sometimes the story is joyful, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes heartbreaking. It is definitely worth a read and I will most certainly recommend it.
Yells on LibraryThing 8 months ago
What can I say? I loved this book. Firstly, Winter does a great job setting the scene. I have never actually been to Newfoundland or Labrador but I feel like I have walked down its streets and met its people. Secondly, the characters were real and likeable. She let them tell the story and as a result it flowed well. I find east coast literature in general tends to be quite dark but this one wasn't. Winter was able to take a difficult subject and put an interesting spin on it. She managed to keep the overall tone quite light without losing the seriousness of the story. You come out of the story feeling a sense of hope for Wayne/Annabel.This one is definitely recommended.
Gerri007 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This review was written for LibraryThing EarlyReviewers.My LT copy of Annabel tells the story of a hermaphrodite child born in rural Labrador in 1968 and his/her story is told from several points of view.The unusual topic is old in graphic & emotional detail showing the autor has done extensive reserch on the subject.The rural & remote setting as well as the year (1968) change the story dramatically.I found the book to be very well written,interesting and informative. I would definitely recommend this book for a first and even second read
bibrarybookslut on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Like Wayne himself, Kathleen Winter¿s novel is beautiful, but difficult. It¿s remarkably well crafted, full of lovely prose and haunting images. From a pure language standpoint, it¿s a delightful read, and one that reminds you what an author can do when she takes the time to choose every word carefully. Annabel is full of beautiful (but harsh) scenery, and beautiful (but equally harsh) characters. That, I¿m afraid, is where my dissatisfaction with the book originates. The story is very cold, almost clinical, and the characters are largely without emotion. There are a lot of powerful scenes in the book that elicit feelings of both hope and despair in the reader, but we¿re alone in experiencing those feelings. The characters are like disinterested actors, simply walking through a rehearsal of their lines. The equally disinterested narrator tells us what happens to them, but offers no insight into what the characters are feeling. Thematically, I suspect very much that this emotional distance is intentional, but it creates a real issue with reader engagement.As for the dilemma of Wayne/Annabel, I¿m of mixed feelings there. This is absolutely a book about contradictions, and the contradiction of gender is first-and-foremost in every chapter. Annabel is not a book with a hermaphrodite character ¿ it¿s a book about a hermaphrodite character. With the exception of some medical interventions that are critical to driving the plot, however, Wayne/Annabel could just as easily have been a more traditional transgendered/transsexual character. The whole issue with the sequined bathing suit, for example, is something I particularly identified with.However, it feels as if Kathleen Winter is using the biological construct of a hermaphrodite to justify (or even excuse) the fact that she is exploring a theme of gender identity. Undoubtedly, the physical fact of being a hermaphrodite, as opposed to the psychological theories of a transsexual, likely does as much to ease most readers through the story, as it does to ease the author through challenges I would have liked to see explored. As a transgendered reader, though, it feels like a cheat ¿ and that annoyed me.One thing I must say is that the author knows precisely how/where to end a story. Instead of a nice, tidy, storybook resolution for all involved, we¿re left with a series of transitions. Kathleen Winter leaves us with a glimpse of characters who are changing, who are progressing from despair to hope . . . or, at least, the potential for hope. Like life, there are no guarantees of a happily ever after, but as readers we are made to feel comfortable enough to let the characters go, and trust them to take care of themselves.Ultimately, it¿s a book I can definitely say I admire but, sadly, not one that I can say I loved.
Romonko on LibraryThing 8 months ago
It's hard to believe when you read this book that this is Kathleen Winter's first novel. It is very well written and appears to be written by a veteran author. Her characterizations are quite wonderful, and her protagonist (Wayne/Annabel) is very realistic. As I was reading I couldn't help but wonder how she knew what growing up in a small remote Labrador village with all these hidden secrets like Wayne has must be very difficult, and she seems to have captured all Wayne's uncertainty and doubts masterfully. Wayne's father Treadway is a very strong character. He is a man who is very independent and at one with nature. Every thing to Treadway is either black or white, so he doesn't know how to deal with his unique son. He makes a decision to raise Wayne as a boy, and spends all of Wayne's growing up years trying to drill masculinity into him. We see a growth in Treadway as this novel progresses as well as in Wayne. A very difficult book to read in some ways because of the subject matter and because of the loneliness of Wayne and his mother, but a book that is well worth reading. There is a depth to this book that is quite astonishing.
LynnB on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A beautifully written book, with sentences that bring the harsh climate of Labrador vividly to mind. Absolutely lovely writing.This is the story of Wayne Blake, a hermaphrodite born in a remote village in 1968. His father wants him raised as a boy; his mother would be comfortable leaving the baby to develop in its own way. She would be comfortable having both a son and a daughter, and secretely mourns the daughter she lost as Wayne has surgery and begins a life long regime of hormone treatment.When Wayne reaches puberty, circumstances require that he be told the truth about his gender. This book explores what gender means and the nature of being male or female.It also explores secrets kept and shared and the impact the breakdown of honest communications can have on relationships. I enjoyed this book, and felt great empathy for the characters. I was not bothered, as some other reviewers were, by the "emotional distance" of the narrator. I think the characters, subtly, through their actions, spoke for themselves very well. I especially like the way the ending was, really, a new beginning for several of the characters.Excellent book.
icolford on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The story of Wayne Blake, born a hermaphrodite in late 1960s Labrador, to parents Jacinta and Treadway. The confusion and shame that ensues after the birth does not temper their love for the child, but it is Treadway--giving his timorous wife no say in the matter--who declares that Wayne will be raised as a boy. Hovering over Wayne's early life is Jacinta's friend Thomasina, who recognizes and acknowledges Wayne's femaleness the moment he emerges from the womb, and secretly bestows upon him the name Annabel, in memory of her own drowned daughter. Winter writes supple, nuanced prose laced with poetic touches enlivened by descriptions of a bleak but enchanted Labrador landscape. The narrative follows a moody and mystical path, resonating with spiritual awareness when Thomasina's dead husband and daughter are invoked, and when Wayne's father Treadway navigates the natural world in his shrewd, plodding manner. But the story belongs to Wayne, normal in every way save a conflicted identity that never lets him rest. A beautiful and memorable novel.
vancouverdeb on LibraryThing 8 months ago
In 1968, a baby was born to Jacinta and Treadway Blake. This takes place in a remote town in Labrador. The baby is born a hermaphrodite. Only the parents and one trusted neighbour are aware of the situation. The father wishes to raise him as a boy - Wayne Blake. His mother wishes to secretly embrace his female side - Annabel. As time goes on - Wayne realizes slowly and subtley that somehow he does not feel comfortable in his body.At times I felt that the story could have proceeded at a faster pace - but that slow pace is part of the magic and feeling of Labrador, I suspect. One gets a real feel for Labrador in days gone by - and at times the prose is nearly lyrical. Though a slow moving book in places - the story does move along through Wayne's school days, high school days -and further.The story is also a study of what makes us female or what makes us male - and what we have in common with both sexes. The ending is most satisfying - at least for me - though no defiinite answers are found.A very readable book, another wonderful look into Canadian living-and a most interesting topic for a book to delve into. I highly reccomend this wonderful read!
jolerie on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Wayne had his suspicions that he wasn't quite like the other boys. He suspected that he was different. What he would later find out was the secret that those around him kept from him and just how the word different would come to define his whole existence. In a culture that celebrates the rigidity of roles, where men are men, and women are women, where those lines are defined and not meant to be blurred, Wayne struggles to find himself within the shades of greys that those around him have turned a blind eye towards.Annabel was a haunting book about one person's search to find definitions that didn't exist and the questions of gender roles and how we perceive those stereotypes made for a captivating read. There were moments where my heart broke for Wayne because all he wanted was to understand who he was and yet that very knowledge was never within his reach. There were moments where I celebrated with Wayne as he stepped out in courage to search for the answers that eluded him since birth. In the end, both Wayne and I will come to understand that being different may not be the norm, but it is no less beautiful.
lit_chick on LibraryThing 8 months ago
My expectations going into Annabel were sky-high. I was not disappointed, but I was somewhat surprised by my response. Pre-reading, I was most interested in the story of Annabel as hermaphrodite, the story of her life as she struggled to belong amidst a culture unforgiving of contradiction. But it was really the superb portrayal of Newfoundland and of life within its remote, hard shores that appealed to me most. Kathleen Winter¿s Newfoundlander characters were so impressive: Treadway¿s hard softness and simple practicality; Jacinta¿s contented acceptance but secret longing; and Thomasina¿s compassionate fearlessness. The isolation, loneliness, and the contradictions of setting and characters, all of these perfectly mirror Annabel¿s hermaphroditism. All of my favourite passages, the ones I underlined in my book to come back to, were about Newfoundland ¿ the place, the life, the harshness of the isolation against the peaceful contentedness of simple life:¿The movements of the duck were the white hunter¿s calligraphy.¿ (12)¿Women of Croydon Harbour knew what was expected of them at all times, and they did it, and the men were expected to do things too, and they did these, and there was no time left.¿ (36) ¿then the brutal grandeur of the real Labrador took over.¿ (178) ¿ how great an expression is ¿brutal grandeur¿?Highly recommended. Required reading for lovers of Canadian literature.
Iudita on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This was a very nice story that takes place primarily in Labrador and the author does a lovely job of taking us there. It is about a child who is born a hermaphrodite and about the life experience of that child and the people who are closest to him. "Wayne" receives an operation as a baby to enclose his female parts and he is given hormones his whole life and raised as a boy. He struggles his whole life with his identity. He is unaware of his condition until he is a teenager and he begins to slowly and quietly deal with the female locked away inside him. For the most part I really enjoyed this book. Two-thirds of the way through it started to become a bit dismal for my taste, but the story picked up again and I enjoyed the ending. My only real criticism comes from the emotional journey of the main character. He struggles his whole life but he seems to take it all in stride somehow. I never really felt the depths of his pain or the confusion he was so clearly feeling. You can imagine finding out that you possessed both sets of sexual organs and especially in the tumultuous teenage years. It would send most people reeling, but Wayne just seemed to suffer silently and and hardly seemed to miss a beat. I think the author missed an opportunity here for the reader to feel Wayne's anguish and to bond with him. Other than that, it is a tender and beautiful story that deals with human relationships and I loved the portrayal of Labrador. Good book!
Jennifyr on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The first 100 pages of Annabel started off well, but started to drag and become hard to get through. This is a book where you can count the scenery as another character, and you come away knowing more about it than some of the people. The book didn't get going, in my opinion, until Wayne was older and was able to express his opinions, fears, and thoughts. Along the way you want to reach in and help him become whoever he is supposed to be, regardless of whether it's Wayne or Annabel. The story telling, when it started rolling along, was great, and when Winter started telling her story, you didn't want to put it down. The only questions that arose with me was the scientific accuracy involved. The main fear involving his first trip to the hospital with Thomasina, and for those of you who have read it, you know what I am talking about, -for the rest, I won't give it away- set off an alarm with me. I'm not an expert here at all, but it seemed scientifically impossible, and after doing some google research (granted, not a real doctor or anything) I seemed correct in my assumptions. I was surprised when nothing came up but praise for Kathleen Winter and her accurate portrayal of intersexed people, so maybe I am wrong in my beliefs, but it left a bad taste in my mouth, and seemed to be for shock value, rather than accuracy to a true condition. That and an almost abrupt ending... it seemed the beginning should have been shorter and the ending longer, almost as if, when the characters left Labradour, they no longer interested the writer... were the two negatives for me, but the main chunk of the book was a great read, and I do recommend it to anyone considering reading this book. It's being compared a lot to Middlesex (strangely enough, without much thought into it, I bought The Fates Will Find Their Way and Annabel on the same day, two books that are both being compared to Jeffrey Eugenides at the same time) but with the exception of both main characters being intersexed and struggling to find their true gender, there is really nothing else alike. Both are entirely different reads, and both worth taking the time to get through... although maybe Middlesex a bit more.
solla on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Annabel by Kathleen Winter is a wonderful book. Because it is about a child born with attributes of both sexes, it might be compared to Middlesex by Jeffry Eugenides (as it is in one of the blurbs from the reviews), but I've read that and while I didn't dislike it didn't have the sense of specialness for me that Annabel has. Annabel is both more poetic and more realistic. The poetry is in the description of the chill starkness of Labrador, Canada as well as in the description of the people who find their home there. The realism comes with the subtlety of the description of how Wayne's (Annabel/Wayne is raised as a boy) parents react to his differences, and the decisions that they make about it, how that affects their emotions and the relationships between them, and how Wayne reacts to things that for a long time he is not told about. There is also another strong player in the story, the neighbor midwife, Thomasina, who is the only other person who knows about him. She is gone for long periods, and then returns for awhile, but always keeps a connection, and is a person who acknowledges the hidden parts of him. Another is Wally Micheln, his best friend, a girl who goes through her own trauma of feeling her deepest desires lost.
janismack on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Beautifuly written book about a hermaphrodite in Labrador. Author was able to convey all the questions and feelings of a person completely lost and wondering what was going on.
bdouglas97 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I really enjoyed this book about a hermaphodite living in a rural environement. The development of the characters was great and the writing was elegant. I loved the father-child relationship and how it became a story in itself and I found myself really liking the dad. I wish there would be a sequal to this!
lauralkeet on LibraryThing 8 months ago
In 1968, a baby was born to Jacinta and Treadway Blake, in a small Labrador trapping village. The birth was attended by a few village women, all close friends. One woman, Thomasina, noticed something unusual right away: the baby had both male and female genitalia. She was the only one outside the family who knew, and supported Jacinta as she struggled to accept what this would mean to them, and to the baby. Treadway decided the baby would be raised as a boy, and while Jacinta felt otherwise, she would not go against her husband. From that moment on the baby was known as Wayne, although Thomasina often called him "Annabel" in private.Jacinta wished she could raise Wayne as both son and daughter, and only vaguely understood the challenges this could pose for Wayne as he grew up. Treadway desperately wanted a traditional, masculine son, and despaired at Wayne's more feminine interests. As a boy, Wayne was ignorant of the medical details, and knew only that he has to take special vitamins. He felt vaguely different from the other boys he knew, and his closest friend was a girl. While Wayne's medical treatment was costly, the more devastating impact was emotional. Jacinta and Treadway are unable to share their feelings with each other, and gradually this takes a toll. Wayne found it increasingly difficult to relate to either of them, and life only became more difficult as he matured and struggled to find his true self.Kathleen Winter drew me into this story gradually, and skillfully. It wasn't a page-turner, but I was surprised to find myself emotionally caught up in this book. I despaired at Jacinta and Treadway's broken relationship, and each response to the family tension. My heart wrenched over the conflict between Treadway and Wayne, especially when Treadway's fears led him to destroy something very dear to Wayne. I also felt very sad for Wayne, who had a secret no one could understand, and coped with so much emotional trauma. As he approached adulthood, Wayne began to understand and accept himself, and I closed the book knowing his life would never be easy, but there were glimmers of hope for his future.
knitwit2 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Simply an amazing piece of work. It is hard to imagine that this could be a first novel, but it is. Ms. Winter has an amazing gift for language and incredible insights into the human condition. Each character from the crusty Treadway to the kind softhearted Wayne was shown in multiple dimensions that denied the reader the chance to accept stereotypes or to make lasting judgments on anyone in the story.
rainpebble on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I finished Annabel this morning and while I liked it very much indeed......it seemed to wrap up rather quickly for me. Things were unfinished that bothered me but more at home with the parents than with Wayne/Annabel. Treadway's change was rather remarkable but I knew he was a softy all along, just a rather gruff one. This book just pulls one along and keeps you for the long haul with just a couple of hiccups. I think I would give it a solid 4 stars.