cover image Watch How We Walk

Watch How We Walk

Jennifer LoveGrove. ECW (IPG, dist.), $18.95 (296p) ISBN 978-1-77041-127-2

Poet LoveGrove’s debut novel takes an engaging, often heartbreaking look at the effects that a strict religious upbringing can inflict on children. Emily grows up as a Jehovah’s Witness, going on door-to-door calls with her parents and older sister, Lenora, and sometimes her fun-loving, rule-breaking Uncle Tyler. Not allowed to associate with “worldly” children, her only rebellion is reading Trixie Belden mysteries in secret. Lenora, however, openly defies the elders, eventually disappearing and leaving a letter behind for Emily with the truth about their community. As Emily grows up and faces the outside world, she becomes a cutter, compulsively incising the letter L into her skin. There’s blisteringly gorgeous prose in the novel, and the first-person chapters are riveting. However, constant changes of tense are jarring, and the use of dashes instead of quotation marks to set off dialogue comes across as a call for attention. The novel is potent enough to evoke anger at the fact that some children are being raised in a culture of abuse, and at the refusal of adults inside or outside the religious framework to intervene; but a weak structure causes the novel to fall short of its potential. (Oct.)