All Asa Cranford wants is to be a mom. Instead, Asa is a forty-year-old ex–high school football star with a full Encyclopaedia Britannica, a mountain of debt, and a tendency to make bad decisions. Rent is due but Asa has just lost pretty much everything at blackjack. A visit to a well-meaning therapist leads to a citation for using the “wrong” bathroom, a court date in four days, and a midnight run to the small Texas town of Asa’s childhood for an officially-certified birth certificate, the only thing that will provide justice. Or will it? When kindly priest Josie Becker rescues Asa from a night spent sleeping in the car, a quick errand turns into anything but. Sister Jack is the story of Asa’s journey from a present that is nothing like what was expected...through a past that is nothing like what it seemed...to a future that just might be better than anything she’s ever dreamed possible.
Plot: Despite the occasional longueur (there are perhaps a few too many recaps, which could be trimmed or excised), the plotting is headlong, tumbling into one surprise turn after another. Asa is a trans woman who loves women. After being arrested for using the "wrong" (male) bathroom while bravely gadding about in drag, she ditches her humdrum architectural assignments to return to her Texas home town, the site of severe adolescent trauma. The author excels at creating exciting action scenes, while the novel maintains its level of psychological profundity.
Prose: Prose is top of the line, in terms of action, dialogue, and the protagonist's self-analysis. This reader initially balked at rather maudlin sentimentalism of the final paragraph, but perhaps the author's intent is semi-satiric.
Originality: Hodge's voice-driven novel provides a rarely authentic glimpse into the experience of being transgender as explored through a truly distinctive, highly memorable central character.
Character Development: Asa Cranford, the gender dysphoric narrator of this picaresque tale of self-discovery, is such a charmer (erudite, too), that the novel could get by on personality alone. Asa starts off glib but the narrative voice ultimately evolves, demonstrating a full range of emotional and psychological states. The narrator is someone whose rich interior life few will have had an opportunity to imagine.
Blurb: Asa Cranford, the gender dysphoric narrator of this picaresque tale of self-discovery, is such a charmer (erudite, too), that the novel could get by on personality alone. But the plot positively boils, providing readers with a truly enveloping, page-turning experience.
Date Submitted: April 11, 2019