Luna – Julie Anne Peters

One of the main characters within the novel “Luna” by Julie Anne Peters reminded me in some ways of Sidney Poitier’s portrayal of the character Dr. John Wade Prentice in the 1967 movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” 

 Dr. Prentice was the perfect man in every way but one. Well educated, compassionate, hard working, funny and successful, the only thing that gave Joey Drayton’s parents any reservations about their daughter marrying him was that he had black skin.  Similarly, Liam/Luna is a straight A’s high school student with a job on the side testing games which earns him mega money.  Good looking (even if in a feminine manner) the world appeared to be at his feet.  He was perfect.

Except for one, minor fly in the ointment.

When I sat down and first opened the cover to the book, I desperately wanted to like the character ‘Luna’, and such was the thrill of finishing university and having the freedom to read for pleasure rather than academic research, I read the whole book over the course of one day. Zoom.

Done.

Immediately when I closed the book I couldn’t make up my mind about Luna.  Sure, I could feel sympathy for the plight of a person who feels like a female inside and has a male body outside – the reality in which Peters writes about transgendered people is stark, strong and insightful. The pain that Luna lived through is hard to comprehend. And yes, we can give lip service to the idea of a person being trapped in the body of the wrong sex, but really understanding it is way beyond most people’s day to day comprehension.

Once when I was little Dad let me try on his hunting jacket. It was huge; it hung to the floor, and it stank.  But what I remember  most was the weight. As if that coat would break my knees and drag me down and trap me inside and smother me. That’s how it felt with Liam. Like I was trapped. Suffocating. Was that fair? No. Life wasn’t fair. Liam proved that.    pp. 180

But after a couple of hours I found myself actually angry with her.  In fact, if I tell the truth and Luna had been a real person, I would have wanted to shake her until her teeth rattled around in her head. Because despite the flicker of understanding that other people were involved in her life that her choices would have an impact upon:
“Yes,” she insisted, squeezing my forearm.

 “Yes Re. I’m always in here crying on your shoulder, asking your advice, taking up your time. It isn’t fair to you. All these years, I haven’t been fair to you.” She sat back on her haunches.  “I’ve been so self-centred, so self-absorbed. I haven’t taken your feelings into consideration. I’ve leaned on you too hard. Depended on you too much.”  pp.212

 
My conclusion was that Luna didn’t care about anyone but Luna and her problems, and in the end she ran away to did what was best for her and didn’t think about the repercussions for anyone else left behind in her wake. Ironically, several days later I’m back to feeling a sort of sympathy for her, understanding why she thought  there was no other option and that she had to do the things she did.
“I was only doing what needs to be done. This is life or death for me, Re. If I don’t transition, I don’t want to live.”
All the blood drained from my face. How could she say that? She couldn’t mean it.
Our eyes met and understanding flowed between us. Total comprehension.
Life or death.
I got it. I finally got it. The change had to come in me. My acceptance of Luna, my support of her transition, my seeing her as a real person.  pp.213

Regan, Luna’s long suffering sister however, I wanted to throw my arms around, tell her how incredible she was. I wanted to tell her that she needed to be able to live her own life and not worry about everyone else’s needs all the time.  The times she allowed Luna’s needs to over ride her own happiness spoke to me on a very personal level.

The basement lights were out, which spooked me. Liam wouldn’t be in bed already. Chris reached over and took my hand. “It’s just family stuff,” I mumbled. “It’s not you.”
“Hey,” he said. “Family shit can wear you down.”
That was an understatement. I was suddenly angry. Here I was with this incredible guy who made me feel special and bought me dinner and took me to a move and wanted to spend time with me and all I could think about was what my brother was doing, what he was thinking and feeling. How I should have left him alone on his birthday, not tonight. Not the way he was acting.  pp.233

But maybe that’s the magic and the true power of Peters writing. That she could take such a difficult, almost forbidden  subject and infuse such humanity and emotions into the characters is quite a feat.  A book dealing with an area of sexuality that on the whole is still very much shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding by mainstream society could have veered off into a nasty example of cheap titillation. Instead, Peters has written about the issue of being transgendered with dignity and respect. 

I really enjoyed this book. But because I’m not sure that there are perfectly happy endings in this kind of situation for a family, I found myself hoping that Luna would find peace eventually and that Regan would find the freedom to be herself.

The copy of this book came from my local library.

• Paperback: 248 pages
• Publisher: Little, Brown
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0316733695

Comments

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