counter on blogger

Pickle Me This

October 15, 2013

Watch How We Walk by Jennifer Lovegrove

watch-how-we-walkJennifer LoveGrove’s first novel Watch How We Walk recalls Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness in that it’s the story of a young girl from a minority Christian sect whose oppressive religious community begins to bear down as her family falls apart. Emily Morrow is ten years old, a fervent Jehovah’s Witness who believes what she’s taught by her elders, swallows her discomfort as she goes knocking on the doors of her classmates, and leaves her classroom every morning to stand in the hall as her fellow students rise to sing the national anthem. She is eager to follow in the footsteps of her older sister Lenora, who had always been an exemplary student and daughter, baptized early at age 14. But lately Lenora has been changing, spending time with “worldly” friends, listening to disturbing music, and skipping meetings at the Kingdom Hall. Meanwhile, her mother is skipping meetings too, something about Uncle Tyler is making the elders concerned, and her father is refusing to acknowledge that anything is wrong, so focussed is he on making the right impression on the community and having his family do so too in order that he eventually can become an elder himself. There is little room for error by any of these characters whose elders will not hesitate to “disfellowship” or shun anyone who fails to tow the line, and the risk is causing Emily enormous anxiety.

Scenes of Emily’s childhood are interposed with those of Emily ten years later, living a lonely life away from her family and attending university, still trying to process some long-ago trauma involving her sister, and carving letters and numbers into her skin. These present-day scenes are particularly compelling and drive the narrative forward, the reader looking to discover just what has gone so wrong.

Young Emily is an empty vessel, taking in the world around her without much of an impression, which makes the childhood scenes come across as not particularly artful, slow in their mundanity. This is exacerbated by the fact that Emily is at such a remove from the world due to her religious upbringing, doubly unable to process what she sees. On the one hand, this makes sense, but still, I yearned for more complexity from this part of the story, particularly as the adult Emily chapters showed just how much depth this character–and this writer–was capable of. I wanted to know more about Emily’s parents, their relationship to each other and to their religion. And yet, there are some fleeting but wonderful scenes where LoveGrove shows us real sympathy for Emily’s parents and their struggles, shows that they are just a powerless against their fates in this system as Emily is herself, whole and flawed people in their own right.

Watch How We Walk is not a perfect novel, but it’s one I couldn’t stop reading, and whose images and metaphors have stayed with me since I finished it. LoveGrove provides fascinating insight into a little-known religious group and their practices, and has crafted a novel with mystery at its core.

3 thoughts on “Watch How We Walk by Jennifer Lovegrove”

  1. Tanya says:

    I’m glad you liked it. I had requested it from NetGalley, but it was archived before I got to it (and before it was published!). It is still on my TBR list though, so I will get to it sooner or later.

  2. Alexis says:

    Just finished this book now. It was compelling, but a bit flawed, as you say. the details about the Jehovah’s were the most interesting thing about the book, although I gasped out loud at the climax. My boyfriend was raised in a fundamentalist Christian group similar to the Jehovahs so it was interesting for me to note the similarities in the two religious groups as well as the damage that these religions can do to families.

  3. Alexis says:

    should not comment using An I phone as it makes me look illiterate.

Leave a Reply to Tanya Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sign up for Pickle Me This: The Digest

Best of the blog delivered to your inbox each month!

A Boutique Online Bookstore Delivering Excellent Fiction Right to Your Door:

Get My New Free Download: 5 MORE Prompts to Bring Back Your Blogging Spark!

Photo Kerry Clare with her Laptop

Coming Fall 2019:

My Books

The Doors
Twitter Pinterest Pinterest Good Reads RSS Post