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Annabel: A Novel Paperback – Deckle Edge, January 4, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat; Original edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080217082X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802170828
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #362,886 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Isolated as Croyden Harbour may be from the social upheaval of 1968, the tiny village on the southeast Labrador coast plays host to its own revolution in Winter's sincere, self-serious debut. Jacinta and Treadway Blake are like any other couple in town--he's away on the trapline all winter, she's confined to domestic life. But the clarity of traditional gender roles begins to unravel when Jacinta gives birth to a hermaphrodite. Both Treadway and the local doctor decide the baby will be brought up as a boy--he's named Wayne, and his female genitalia are sewn shut. Meanwhile, Jacinta's friend Thomasina, quietly tends to the spiritual development of the child's female identity. Kept in the dark about his condition for most of his childhood, Wayne struggles to live up to the manly standards imposed by his well-meaning if curmudgeonly father, but when adolescence rolls around, Wayne's body reveals a number of surprises and becomes a battleground of physiology, identity, and sexual discovery. Though delivered at times with a heavy hand, the novel's moral of acceptance and understanding is sure to win Winter many fans. (Jan.) (c)
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From Booklist

Wayne, born into the harsh, rural landscape of Labrador, Canada, in 1968, is a hermaphrodite. It is his father who ultimately decides to raise him as a male and names him. Only Wayne’s parents and their friend Thomasina Baikie, also present at his birth, are aware of his gender duality. The two women silently battle against Wayne’s father’s gender assignment, and as Wayne grows older, he must contend with the two genders struggling for dominance within him. His father, Treadway, a trapper who spends most of his time outdoors, works hard to steer Wayne away from his feminine side. His mother, Jacinta, becomes increasingly estranged from her husband as she mourns the loss of her female child. Following the tragic death of her husband and daughter, Thomasina travels the world and sends enticing postcards to Wayne of the world beyond his own. A simple yet eloquent coming-of-age tale, this debut novel quietly questions our assumptions about gender by presenting us with a host of complex, evocative characters. A fantastic read that will appeal to fans of Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex (2002). --Julie Hunt

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Customer Reviews

A beautifully written & poignant story.
Susan Wong
At the end of the novel you have gone on a journey of sadness, love, happiness, and compassion that forms a personal bond with the story and its heroes.
Laura L
In fact, I can't say Wayne was the sole main character of this book, although it is primarily his/her story being told.
Elizabeth M. Wade

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
Being born a hermaphrodite can be a very hard row to hoe. It is especially hard when you are born in remote Labrador in 1968. The nearest specialist is miles away and this is not a town that relishes diversity. Even today, in large urban areas, there is a lot of controversy about what to do about gender when an infant is born with ambiguous sex organs. Some doctors utilize blood tests to determine gender and others go by outward appearance. A true hermaphrodite is born one in 81,000 births.

When Jacinta and Treadway have a home birth, assisted by their friend Thomasina, they are shocked to see that their infant child has one testicle and a vagina. They immediately take the baby to the hospital where the doctor determines the child to be a boy. His sex is determined because his penis is large enough to call him a boy. He is named Wayne and brought up as a son. However, he has a full set of female sex organs within him and feels that he has a shadow female self that Thomasina calls Annabel. Lifelong medication shuts off the development of Wayne's female self and promotes his development as a male.

Wayne is not told that he is a hermaphrodite. He takes pills every day that he believes are for a blood disorder. His father, Treadway, tries to get Wayne to be `one of the guys' and keeps hoping Wayne will join in with other boys in their activities. However, Wayne is not like that. He likes to draw, is fascinated with bridges, and loves to sit and talk with his mother. Treadway is a trapper who is gone for most of the year and, as tension in the home builds due to Wayne's condition, he is gone more and more. It is Jacinta who is responsible for most of Wayne's rearing.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Rafael on January 21, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A wonderful and exceptionally well-written and sensitive book about a person coming to terms with his own identity. On another level this novel profoundly illustrates the failure of our society to deal with the simple realities of life. The author, a master at character development, tells the tale of a person born with ambiguous genitalia, who undergoes surgery at birth and is assigned to the wrong gender. This is a cautionary tale for prospective parents about a phenomena that is not as rare as everyone might imagine. Although this masterful story is a novel, the end result is pure poetry. Unfortunately, it seems, intersex issues are not much addressed in fiction, but this book would have to rank at or near the top of any list of books either about that subject or transgender themes in general.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Steve M. Pritchard on May 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
Annabel is a story that I would have never, ever even given a second glance had I not followed a whim and tried something different. The moral of the story is: Try something different. I knew from the cover what Annabel was going to be about and it might have evoked something deep inside considering my sister is transgender. That probably fueled me to at least try it. But Annabel is not about a transgender child. Annabel is about a true hermaphrodite, something that exists in less than 85,000 births.

Kathleen's writing style is amazing. She is descriptive. She guides you- sometimes oppresses you- into her world, enrapturing you with the incredible details of wild Labrador, a tiny family and village that this child is raised in. She describes the incredible desolation- and the unseen beauty of that desolation. Then she introduces you to Wayne and his family, and the desolation continues. These are flawed, believable people that evoke emotional response. You get frustrated with them, you empathize with them, you want to survive... or get their due.

Pick up and try this book if you're willing to endure a story of a lonely life that barely understands itself, but is trying to- like all teenagers and young adults- to find their way.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Heather on April 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
Annabel is a novel about a child born with true hermaphroditism. (True hermaphroditism is distinguished as a child born with both male and female functioning tissue: one ovary, fallopian tube, womb, and a vagina, and a testicle and small penis/large clitoris.) This condition is generally misunderstood, even today, and is incredibly rare. Wayne/Annabel, the title character of the novel, is born in 1968 in Labrador in a tiny, frozen town. His father, Treadway, is a hunter and a trapper and wants Wayne to be raised as a boy without ever being told of his ambiguous gender at birth. Wayne's mother agrees to her husband's wishes because she wants to be a good wife, but she secretly mourns the daughter she has lost. The only other person in the community who knows of Wayne's condition is Thomasina, a family friend who was present at the birth. Wayne grows up with dreams of being a girl, and at thirteen, after a medical emergency, finds out the truth of his birth. After graduating high school, he moves to the nearby city of St. John and attempts to allow his feminine self to emerge.

This is a quiet novel. It is not filled with action or fast-moving dialogue and drama. There are high stakes, but they are dealt with somberly and slowly. This is not to say that the book is boring, merely that it is paced slowly, like the landscape in which it is set. The theme of quietness shows through the novel in many ways. Wayne's parents are quiet about the truth of his birth; his mother is quiet about her own desires; Treadway, his father, enjoys the quiet and being alone on his trapline. The landscape is desolate, frozen, and silent. The town is small and austere. Wayne grows up in a world in which he learns to be quiet.
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