Annabel By Kathleen Winter



The fourth book on the Canada Reads Top 40 list is Annabel by Kathleen Winter.

First Impressions

Annabel is not a coffee shop, subway riding, read-between-busyness reading novel – this is a novel that deserves and ultimately demands your full and complete attention. You can try to read it while on your lunch break or when you really only have time for a “couple of pages” but Treadway, Wayne, Jacinta, Annabel and Thomasina will not let you.

The people of Croydon Harbour will break into your heart and slowly but surely carve out a piece for themselves. This is that book. That book that you wonder why you took so long to pick it up and read it. That book that you want to tell everyone you know to read. That book that makes you reconsider how and why you do what you do.

You can guess by now that I thoroughly enjoyed Kathleen Winter’s novel. You can likely presume that I think this is that book.

Set in Croydon Harbour in northern Labrador, Treadway and Jacinta are the proud new parents of a new baby. This baby is special – special in a way that also makes it painfully different. This baby has both male and female sex organs and decisions are made, secrets are kept, and things happen – all with the best of intentions that make life a challenge for the baby who is ultimately raised as a boy.

I’ve kept my description brief because I just want you to sit down and read this book. I don’t want to give anything away. Annabel is written so beautifully that you feel like you’re a part of  Croydon Harbour. Having grown up in a small town that had its ideas of what was “right” and what wasn’t “right” – I can really appreciate how hard it was for Treadway, Jacinta, Wayne, and Thomasina to continue on as they did. Small towns are not very forgiving and if you grew up in a small town and at any times felt as if you didn’t quite fit – then this book will likely resonate with you at a special level.

Is This A Novel That Could Change Canada?

The answer to this question is yes… But the problem is this – the people who should read Annabel and learn from it, likely will never read this novel. So it is up to us to read this book and to try to live its messages of acceptance, perseverance, unconditional love and perspective.

I am not a parent but I think this novel is one which every parent should read. Each parent has an idea of what their child “should be like” – some kids live up to these standards and ultimately see this in their parents’ acceptance and then there are those kids who feel like they’re not quite what their parents wanted. This novel hopefully will remind parents that their kids are super special and that they are just who they are – they are neither good nor bad, perfect or imperfect, living up to expectations or failing to live up to expectations. Kids are just trying to figure it out – just like their parents.

There are multiple reasons why this novel is on the Top 5 list – so just go read it (and then tell me what you think of it).

Should You Read This Novel?

Please read this novel. Then sit back and think about it. Think about your kids. Think about your parents. Think about that neighbour down the street that no one talks to. Think about that kid at school who just didn’t quite fit in. Think about that distant uncle or aunt that no one invites over for Thanksgiving supper.

Up next is The Blue Light Project by Timothy Taylor.

(The theme of Canada Reads 2014 is to find the one novel that could change the nation.)


6 thoughts on “Annabel By Kathleen Winter

  1. Pingback: Canada Reads 2014 virtual book club | bookgaga

  2. I loved this book too! I agree that the people who should be reading it probably won’t, but hopefully being in the Top 5 will at least get people talking about it more, even if they don’t all read it. It definitely has a chance to win this year, but I think it will have strong competition with The Orenda (which I loved even more). I’m now going over to see what you thought of Cockroach.

    • HI Naomi!

      Thanks for the comment. Thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I don’t know if you listen to The Next Chapter on CBC Radio – but today Shelagh Rogers had an interview with Kathleen Winter.
      Thanks for visiting my site.


  3. I’m finally catching up on your reviews! We read Annabel with our bookclub a couple of years ago, and it definitely generated fascinating conversation – and we did all love it. As you guessed, it particularly resonated with me as a parent, as I observe the unique qualities developing in my kids, figure out how to nurture these qualities, and wonder how it will affect them later in life. I’d even say that I disagree on one point of your review: that the ppl who need to read this book most won’t… I think lots of parents and caregivers of children who read this book will come away with a new and very important perspective! Also, I followed up this read with Middlesex, by Jeffery Eugenides, another excellent book about the origins and coming-of-age of an intersex child. It was cool to read these back to back to get different perspectives on the same unique topic.

    • Hi Heather!
      Thanks very much for your feedback. This novel is one that still stands out as one of my favourites – even now that I’m 14 books into the Canada Reads Top 40. I’ll definitely read Middlesex when I’m done reading through this list of books. As a non-parent it is always interesting to hear from parents about books that do deal with the children and parenting. Have you read Going Down Swinging by Billie Livingston – another excellent novel about life, parenthood and trying to do the best (but in this case failing often) for your children.

  4. Pingback: This, That and The Other Thing | Ottawa Cross

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