Summary and book reviews of The Guineveres by Sarah Domet

The Guineveres

by Sarah Domet

The Guineveres by Sarah Domet
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2016, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2017, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Emily-Jane Hills Orford

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About this Book

Book Summary

To four girls who have nothing, their friendship is everything: they are each other's confidants, teachers, and family. The girls are all named Guinevere - Vere, Gwen, Ginny, and Win - and it is the surprise of finding another Guinevere in their midst that first brings them together.

They come to The Sisters of the Supreme Adoration convent by different paths, delivered by their families, each with her own complicated, heartbreaking story that she safeguards. Gwen is all Hollywood glamour and swagger; Ginny is a budding artiste with a sentiment to match; Win's tough bravado isn't even skin deep; and Vere is the only one who seems to be a believer, trying to hold onto her faith that her mother will one day return for her. However, the girls are more than the sum of their parts and together they form the all powerful and confident The Guineveres, bound by the extraordinary coincidence of their names and girded against the indignities of their plain, sequestered lives.

The nuns who raise them teach the Guineveres that faith is about waiting: waiting for the mail, for weekly wash day, for a miracle, or for the day they turn eighteen and are allowed to leave the convent. But the Guineveres grow tired of waiting. And so when four comatose soldiers from the War looming outside arrive at the convent, the girls realize that these men may hold their ticket out.

In prose shot through with beauty, Sarah Domet weaves together the Guineveres' past, present, and future, as well as the stories of the female saints they were raised on, to capture the wonder and tumult of girlhood and the magical thinking of young women as they cross over to adulthood.

The Assumption

We were known as The Guineveres to the other girls at the Sisters of the Supreme Adoration because our parents all named us Guinevere at birth, a coincidence that bound us together from the moment we met. We arrived over the course of two years, one by one, delivered unto the cool foyer of the convent and into the care of Sister Fran. Each of us had our own story. Usually, our parents whispered that they loved us; they told us to behave. Our mothers gave us lipstick kisses on our cheeks, or our fathers said they hoped someday we'd understand. Then they drove away for good, up the one-lane drive and into a world that was easier without children. They all had their reasons.

But The Guineveres had our reasons for wanting to run away, which is how we found ourselves stowed inside the cramped quarters of a parade float, wheels whirring beneath us, gravel bumping us like unpredictable hiccups so that we had to brace ourselves against the chicken-wire frame that cut into ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Discuss the tension in the novel between the individual and the group, dramatized by Vere's frequent use of first - person plural narration, as she speaks for "The Guineveres." How do the girls develop a sense of self in the convent?
  2. Sister Fran tells The Guineveres: "It's an altar server, not an altar girl. There's no such thing as an altar girl." Win repeats this sentiment years later, at a dinner party, and then starts crying. What does the term "altar girls" mean to the Guineveres? How are gender norms enforced and disrupted in the novel?
  3. What do you make of the saints' revival stories, in which the young ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

On the surface, The Guineveres is a coming-of-age story about young girls exploring their world and their bodies and, generally speaking, the meaning of life. They come from scattered backgrounds: one is the daughter of a single, homeless mother with mental issues; yet another is from a family shattered to discover their daughter's preference for other girls. But there is a deeper element to this novel, one that addresses the spiritual context of life and the world around us.   (Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford).

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Media Reviews

Atlanta Magazine

Domet's lively writing is as original as her plot, which knits the Guineveres' struggles together with stories of female saints. Poignant and often funny, Domet captures the fever of teenage desire by pinning it against the confines of a strict religious environment.

Publishers Weekly

Domet deftly weaves in the girls' individual stories and the stories of female saints into her structure, making this a satisfying read on multiple levels.

Kirkus

"Domet's (90 Days to Your Novel, 2010) energetic prose, institutional setting, Christian fabulism, and fervidly wacky plot - revolving around the ability of the comatose to get a hard-on - will appeal to fans of John Irving.

Library Journal

Starred Review. A first novel whose tone echoes that of Jeffrey Eugenides's The Virgin Suicides…This phenomenal, character-driven story is mesmerizing.

Booklist

Starred Review. Domet's debut is a luminous bildungsroman, brimming with wisdom about how girls view themselves, each other, and the world around them.

Author Blurb Kevin Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of The Family Fang
This is an amazing book, a unique writer.

Author Blurb Adriana Trigiani, author of The Shoemaker's Wife
The Guineveres is a glorious debut. Sarah Domet is an enthralling storyteller who has an original voice and an ability to create unforgettable characters with a deep and abiding understanding of the human heart. Love, betrayal, forgiveness, it's all here. Readers will savor and rejoice.

Author Blurb Brock Clarke, author of An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England
Sarah Domet's The Guineveres is a revelation, the way Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides was a revelation: rarely do we see a writer so young, so brilliant, who wears her brilliance so offhandedly, so charmingly, so winningly. Rarely do we see such a young writer so masterful in her control of language, of form.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Concept of Sainthood

In The Guineveres, Sarah Domet weaves the stories of eight saints—Rose of Lima; Cecelia; the sister saints, Irmina and Adela; Ita; Agatha; Alice and Christina the Astonishing. These holy figures have a relevance to certain themes in the novel including the concept of sacrifice, the sanctity of the female body, and the recognition of various mental illnesses. All these saints have their place in the Roman Catholic Church even though a few were not officially beatified.

Saint Christina the Astonishing was referred to as a saint during her lifetime and long after. She is also known as Saint Christina Mirabilis or Saint Christine the Admirable. Christina lived in Belgium in the twelfth century. She was born into a peasant family and ...

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