on 14 January 2004
I wasnt really impressed with this book. From the point of view of writing quality, it wasnt good. The author seems to use the same language and idiom for an 18 year old girl as for her mother, and indeed the mother's 35 year old transexual partner. Pick any paragraph from any of the book's characters, and you couldnt know if you were reading a young girl or a older person's thoughts/story - they all use the same vocab and style. As a result, I didnt find the characters particularly believable due to the sameness of the various "voices". I did find the insight into contemporary culture interesting. The crusading but cowardly locals, the hypocracy of the community leaders. The dysfunctionality of the daughter and her description of growing up with divorced parents was believeable. But as for the transexual/transvestite debate and story, it wasn't well put across and didn't seem to ring true. I welcome a book that tries to depict this issue, but this one doesn't work in my view. The failure is due to the format and style of the book (radio interview/confessional). I think above all I didnt really believe the sincerity of the thoughts expressed by Dana in this book, but then I'm not sure if we're meant to take her at face value! The ending says it all, entirely contradictory of earlier passages in the book where Dana describes her youth and early 20s. No wonder Allison was confused; I certainly was. And it left me feeling the author was ambivalent about transexuals, and what it means to be one. He/She may not be as sympathetic as the blurb would seem to imply! Read and judge for yourself.
A profoundly disappointing novel confounding all expectations after this writer's sublime story of foster-child Alfred, in The Buffalo Soldier. This one is slow-paced and quite plodding and even though it has an interesting story to tell, it manages to be bland and without much impetus throughout.
Allie has fallen for her Film Studies professor, Dana, who has just decided he will take the plunge and have the operation that will make him a woman. The small town they inhabit is not, however, ready for such scandalous goings-on and it causes Allie huge problems in her job as a grade school teacher when she decides to support Dana in making the transition from male to female. After all, he'll still be Dana when he becomes a she, and it is Dana she has fallen in love with. The novel's theme is radio broadcasting. Allie's ex-husband, Will, owns the local radio station and decides to help when unpleasant things begin to happen as a result of her decision to stick by Dana.
The way Allie - a heterosexual - transforms herself into the lover of a transsexual is unconvincing, mainly, I feel, because of the lack of passion in the writing. It seems the writer has got stuck, somehow, on the theoretical, and never descends into concrete human-being land. Everyone is so determinedly, so calmly pragmatic that one almost wishes someone would go crazy with an axe.