I have been looking forward to reading Annie John since I listened to “Figures in the Distance” on The New Yorker fiction podcast. Jamaica Kincaid wrote “Figures in the Distance” as a short story; however, it later evolved into the first chapter of Annie John. (The first chapter/story is primarily about Annie’s morbid fascination with the dead/ghosts.)
This is a coming of age tale beginning with Annie’s early years growing up in Antigua, West Indies. She is an only child who lives with both her father and mother. As a young girl, she spends a lot of time with her mother, mostly doing things around the house like cooking, cleaning, laundry. Her open adoration for her mother is more like idolatry than love.
As she matures, she finds that both she and her mother change and begin to grow apart. This is not a natural or peaceful separation for Annie. She realizes that her mother isn’t perfect and feeling unloved and ignored, Annie lashes out in true teenage form.
Though the novel is a little angsty, Annie John deals with pertinent topics like gender, class, sex, race, and relationships. (And let’s face it, I love teenage angst!) It is also beautifully written with dreams, memories, and tangential stories all woven neatly together inside a linear frame-work. The prose and sentence structure undergo a subtle change as Annie John ages, which highlights her character development in the novel.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I would certainly pick it up again!