A very good memoir, and an especially good audiobook. What makes this is good audiobook is that Jeanette Winterson is the reader here, and like with a lot of memoir audiobooks, that makes all the difference. In some ways this book follows a lot of the same history as Winterson’s fist novel, the kind of autobiographical Oranges are not the only Fruit, but we clearly see the difference in a lot of ways. Jeannette, as a baby, is given up for adoption and found and raised by Mr. and Mrs. Winterson. She refers to her adoptive father as “my dad” and her adoptive mother as “Mrs. Winterson” and this helps to show the ways in which these relationships were negotiated. The Wintersons are evangelical Pentecostal Christians, and Mrs. Winterson especially has a strong and even odious fervor about her religion. This intensity includes a seeming dislike for her adopted daughter, but doesn’t include outright racism.
Jeannette finds solace and understanding in the world of books, looks for connections in all kind of good and bad places, slowly comes to understand her identity as a Lesbian, a discovery that leads her adoptive mother to ask the question contained in the title of the book. As she gets older and finds separation from Mrs. Winterson, namely because she dies, Jeannette begins to pursue the story behind her birth and adoption through official means. Ultimately this book works best as a counterpart to the novels, in which spaces and gaps and obscurities are the main thrust into the space of truth and historical fact.