Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Guineveres by Sarah Domet

28220847In the vein of The Virgin Suicides, a dazzling debut novel about four girls inexplicably named Guinevere, all left by their parents to be raised by nuns, and the year in which their tightly knit Guinevere family implodes when four comatose soldiers arrive.

Vere, Gwen, Ginny, and Win come to The Sisters of the Supreme Adoration by different paths, delivered into the rigorous and austere care of Sister Fran. Each has their own complicated, heartbreaking story that they safeguard. But together they are the all powerful and confident The Guineveres, bound by the extraordinary coincidence of their names and girded against the indignities of their plain, sequestered lives. Together, they learn about God, history, and, despite the nuns' protestations, sex. They learn about the saints whose revival stories of faith and pain are threaded through their own. But above all, they plot their futures, when they can leave the convent and finally find a true home. But when four comatose soldiers, casualties of the War looming outside, arrive at the convent, The Guineveres’ friendship is tested in ways they never could have foreseen.

In The Guineveres, Sarah Domet navigates the wonder and tumult of girlhood, the families we yearn for and create. In prose shot through with beauty, Domet intertwines the ordinary and the miraculous, as The Guineveres discover what home really means.

Sarah Domet’s debut novel, The Guineveres, is a wonderful story that follows four girls who are bound together by an improbable coincidence, sharing the same name as Saint Guinevere. All four of them arrived within the course of two years of one another at a convent of the Sisters of the Supreme Adoration and delivered into the care of Sister Fran, which is located a civilization away from their homes. They don’t understand why they were sent there. But their parents all had their reasons. They told them they’d understand someday.

The first Guinevere to arrive at the convent was Vere Guinevere, a sensitive girl, who was almost thirteen when she arrived. It was a lonely summer as she was the only Guinevere that summer. Ginny was the second, and they both met eight months later during the morning roll, when the name Guinevere was called out and they both stepped out. Winnie arrived another eight months later, which was near Christmastime. During another morning roll, they all responded to the call Guinevere. The triune Guinevere didn’t expect another of their kind to arrive but Gwen did late one fall, completing the circle.

The Guineveres by Sarah Domet is narrated through the retrospective lens of Vere, but is told some twenty years later. As the story progressed, Vere narrated the tragic lives of Saints and how the Guineveres landed at the convent, and also how they went about their lives at the convent. The plan they hatched to escape, and how it all came to nought and the resultant punishment of three months of service was as absorbing as it was delightful. The Guineveres by Sarah Domet is not only a story of friendship at unexpected places but also a tale of love, heartbreak and betrayal. I found debutant Sarah Domet’s writing and narrative exceptionaly wonderful. The characters are adorable and the plot brilliantly conceived. If I’m forced to point out my grouse, it will have to be the vagueness with which a war was mentioned. Fortunately, that doesn’t take away anything from the beauty of the book.

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