Sunday, March 26, 2017

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

A childhood evangelist tells her story

Jeanette, the talented daughter of devout Pentecostalists, describes the goings on with her mother’s colorful friends from the church. Jeanette, however, destined by her mother, and her speaking skills, for missionary greatness, keeps getting derailed by sex. As she grows from precocious child to anointed orator, she finds it hard to resist getting into trouble with pretty girls. In the end, the church and her mother consider that she has willfully profaned her holy mission, and Jeanette is exiled.

When I read this book before, I was completely entranced. The heart of this novel is the very compelling voice, and I love the way fairy tales and Biblical structures are key. That being said, this time the showmanship of the writing (which at times veered almost into cuteness) turned me off a little. The narrator always felt “on” and it grated.

The mother is a great character. “She had never heard of mixed feelings.” Jeannette is also a great character – she wants to be a preacher proclaiming her religion, but at the same time she can’t help being who she is. And who she is separates her from the community. I’m not sure if there was enough of plot, however, to keep my interest or to provide a compelling climax to the story. Also, what’s the deal with the repetition of the oranges? Finally, I loved the way the chapters were named after the books of the Bible.

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