A Woman Determined by Jean Swallow

cover of the book A Woman DeterminedA Woman Determined by Jean Swallow
Genre: Fiction
Copyright Year:
Published: 1998
Publisher: Spinsters Ink Books
Format: Trade Paperback
No. of Pages: 206
No. In Series:
ISBN: 1883523281
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When Margaret Donovan, the administrator of a Seattle women’s health clinic, is hit by a car the day she finds out her partner has been embezzling funds from the clinic, she hires Laura Gilbert to represent her in a lawsuit against the man who hit her. As the two women recall, in parallel narratives, their search for justice, it becomes clear that truth is a slippery concept, constantly shifting from one person’s perspective to another. A Woman Determined recounts the history of a close-knit lesbian community and the consequences of crises upon that community, its members, and institutions. ——From Publishers Weekly ‘If you want to know what really happened, you ask someone who was there, just like you are doing with me, right? ‘ Swallow replicates the methods of journalism and oral history in this disturbing, posthumously published novel about shifting perceptions. At its outset, Margaret Donovan, founder and former director of a women’s health center, is being interviewed for an article about women who’ve made a difference in Seattle’s lesbian community. But the unnamed interviewer quickly takes a back seat to the novel’s two narrators: the staunch and hearty Donovan and her attorney, Laura Gilbert, who represents Donovan after she’s injured in a car accident. The accident comes at a turning point for both women? Donovan’s clinic is in financial peril, and Gilbert is undergoing a crisis of faith about her law practice. Did Donovan mismanage clinic funds? Who was at fault in the accident? Did Donovan resign, or was she forced out of her job at the clinic? In alternating monologues, both women tell the truth as they see it, and make the ‘interview’ a platform from which to address larger issues of justice and personal responsibility. ‘I needed the ambiguities of real people, ‘ says Gilbert. It is precisely these ambiguities that Swallow (Leave a Light On for Me) portrays. Readers looking for the ‘real’ truth will be disappointed: Swallow tries hard to give her paired, conflicting narratives equal weight as their complex, forthright tellers do their best to recount and make meaning from the past they share. Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. From Library Journal Swallow, editor of The Next Step: Lesbians in Long-Term Recovery (LJ 11/15/95), presents a fictionalized portrait of an urban lesbian feminist community in this posthumously published novel. Margaret, injured in a car accident, is bitter and resentful at what she feels was poor representation by her lawyer, Laura. They tell their stories in alternating chapters. Although both versions of the court case are ostensibly valid, Laura is by far the more sympathetic character, and so her story seems more credible. Both Margaret and Laura are honorable, hardworking women making it in a world that doesn’t even accept their existence; no wonder they have such high expectations of their community, one that has generated real social change but that exacts a high toll on the same women who were the trailblazers. Swallow’s premise is intriguing, but unfortunately the book is a turgid read. Recommended only for libraries that count a substantial number of political activists among their patrons. Ina Rimpau, Newark P. L. , NJ Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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