Trans-Sister Radio, by Chris Bohjalian
(New York: Random House, 2000)
"When schoolteacher Allison Banks develops a crush on university professor Dana Stevens, she knows that he will give her what she needs most: gentleness, kindness, passion. Her daughter, Carly, enthusiastically witnesses the change in her mother. But a few months into their relationship, Dana tells Allison his secret: he has always been certain that he is a woman born into the wrong skin, and soon he will have a sex-change operation. Allison, overwhelmed by the depth of her love, finds herself unable to leave him—but by deciding to stay she must face questions most people never even consider. Not only will her own life and Carly's be irrevocably changed, she will have to contend with the outrage of her small Vermont community and come to terms with her lover's new sense of self—and hope against hope that her love will transcend their ingrained notions of what it means to be a man and a woman."
"I was eight when my parents separated, and nine when they actually divorced."
This is Bohjalian at his peak, worthy to stand alongside Midwives and The Double Bind rather than the remaindered pale shadows of The Night Strangers and its ilk. The story is narrated from four different perspectives: Allison's, Dana's, Carly's (who opens the book with the line above), and that of Allison's ex-husband and Carly's father, Will. Admittedly, I did predict one of the points in the closing, which was probably supposed to be a twist -- probably just because I've read too many novels by Bohjalian and Jodi Picoult. Not sure I totally buy how calmly both Allison and Carly seem to accept Dana's revelation, but the former, at least, is sufficiently well-explained that it's not wholly ridiculous. And I especially enjoyed the reaction from Allison's school community (parents demanding to have their kids transferred out of her class, a wishy-washy first year principal, etc.). If anything, the book could have used a bit more conflict among the main characters; most of it comes from the school, whereas any friction between the protagonists seems minor and quickly resolved. Still a good read, though.