Dana is a college prof going through changes, serious changes -- he's transitioning from male to female. Allison, a high-school teacher, falls in love with Dana, unaware in the early stages of their friendship of what Dana is going through. Will, Allison's ex-husband, is having a hard time dealing with his ex's new significant other -- on every level. It's a grabber of a premise -- and an important one -- but Chris Bohjalian doesn't quite fulfill its promise.
In his previous books, especially Midwives, he's been able to use his intensive research and his own empathy to get inside intriguing situations like this.
And in the case of Trans-Sister, he's investigated extensively and obviously knows what he's talking about. But he's so intent on being thorough, instead of artful, that the characters wind up speechifying instead of deepening.
And Will and Allison's daughter Carly, who is preparing a radio program on the transgender subject -- hence, the title of the book -- is way too good to be true.
Given the growth in the transgender community, there will be a lot of interest in Bohjalian's book. And it's as sympathetic as it should be.
But it reminds me of lesbian coming-out stories of the late 70s, when the catalogue of titles on that subject was as slim as the one on transgender experience is now. It's well meaning, and it throws the door open on the experiences of a marginalized community -- but that does not make it a good novel.
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