CW: Spoilers, duh.
This was another book I ruined by seeing the movie first. As it was one of the cinema sensations of 2018, though, I suppose that was bound to happen. I set myself this book because I’m been on a pilgrimage, reading fiction that looks at faith and queerness in conflict. But this’ll be the last book I read after watching its adaptation a hundred times. It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, because I did, and I’ve a ton of fruitful topics I want to (but won’t) ruin for you.
My problem was I spent a lot of the novel waiting for the movie to start. A good portion of the novel felt tedious as it did little for the overall narrative. Large blocks of text read as obvious filler with no impact on character, setting, or commentary at all. My theory was that these moments were meant to quench a ‘pleasure for reading’ I didn’t find because I was too eager to get to the story I knew.
Yet that doesn’t mean I preferred the movie. The truth is I found the two stories too different, and enjoyed the additional context only found in the book. While the movie had a more linear narrative structure, it stripped a lot of what made the book feel magical. Cameron’s strategic kleptomania, for example, told me everything I needed to know about who she was.
Cameron kept a dollhouse in her room that she built with her father. And while the exterior remained a highly-detailed yet ‘normal’-looking house, Cameron decorated the interior with glitter, confetti, and small treasures she secretly collected (stole) throughout the first two books. These small treasures were important because Cameron collected them in moments that felt significant to her and said something about her relationship with the people and places around her. The dollhouse itself sat in her room like a secret waiting to be found: not hidden, but assumed ‘normal’ like her sexuality. Her return to it with these small treasures throughout the book, for me, emphasised the moments that were significant in her development.
The rest of the magic was stolen from each and every character. All of them. I know it’s difficult creating a movie that’s ‘too full’ with dynamic characters, but to me the complete disregard for Danforth’s characters felt like a betrayal.
Jamie (Cameron’s boyfriend at the start) tried to change her at first, but supported her secret because his own brother was gay (Cameron is far from the only gay in the village). Cameron’s parents were never ‘concerned’ about her sexuality either, and actually found Aunt Ruth’s beliefs too extreme (this included Cameron’s grandma, who never made it to the movie). Cameron never trusted her aunt as a result, and intentionally brought Ruth to tears before being left at God’s Promise. I won’t go through every character and betrayal, but the removal of these aspects left movie Cameron a hollow shell compared to how she appears in the book.
I can safely say I enjoyed part two and chewed through part three. The rest… might need a little research into the adaptation to make up my mind.