Annabel is a novel about a baby born both a girl and a boy. The parents decide to raise the baby as a boy, naming him Wayne. Throughout Wayne’s childhood, teenage years and early adulthood, he struggles with knowing who he is and is in touch with his feminine side, a side of himself he calls Annabel, fostered and encouraged by the closest women in his life. His connection to his femininity is a source of great contention for his father, Treadway, who is the quintessential man’s man: he hunts, he builds, he’s emotionally distant. Beginning in the early 1970’s and set in Labrador, Newfoundland, the world Wayne lives in is not accepting of ‘different’ and Wayne struggles with himself and his place in the world.
This novel highlighted the struggles Wayne/Annabel went through throughout his life and the decisions he makes to become who She is. Some chapters were hard to read, one in particular of a brutal beating inflicted by a group of boys made my stomach turn. But the novel does a great job in showing Wayne/Annabel’s different relationships, with parents, teachers and peers, including a nonsexual friendship with Wally, a girl, and the ups-and-downs in their friendship, and most importantly, Wayne’s relationship with Annabel and vice versa.
I really enjoyed this novel because it really expanded my horizons. I have never read a book about intersex, gender issues, let alone a novel set in 1970s Newfoundland. And what’s the point of reading if not to push your boundaries and expand your knowledge about worlds you never explored?