A Rhinestone Button

Description

321 pages
$35.95
ISBN 0-676-97549-6
DDC C813'.54

Year

2002

Contributor

Reviewed by Darleen R. Golke

Darleen R. Golke is a high-school teacher-librarian in Winnipeg,
Manitoba.

Review

At age 12, Job Sunstrum, the protagonist in Anderson-Dargatz’s third
novel about lonely misfits, realizes that other people don’t “see
the world” as he does; they don’t “hear colours” or “feel and
see sound” (a condition known as synesthesia). Job’s slenderness,
his “white blond head of curly hair,” and his “delicate
heart-shaped face” earn him the nicknames Pretty Boy and Princess,
because “men were not pretty in Godsfinger, Alberta.”

Jeering from his peers, abuse from his father and brother, criticism
from the Germanic Baptist community, and his own passivity combine to
isolate Job in a prison of loneliness. After each parent dies in
separate farm accidents, Job successfully runs the farm until his
brother, an evangelical preacher, reappears, installs his harpy of a
wife and pyromaniac son in the main house, and banishes Job to an
ill-appointed cabin. Job endures further indignities, including a
scheming Pentecostal evangelist, betrayal by friends, and unending
monotony.

Like his biblical namesake, Job continues to search for God in the
mundane world around him. He longs for someone to love, but his abortive
attempts to find companionship sputter until he meets Liv, another
lonely outsider. When events combine to force closure of the farm, Job
is finally free to determine his future.

Anderson-Dargatz captures the essence of prairie farm communities where
the “usual talk” focuses on “who was ill, who had cancer. Who’d
been hailed out, who’d been bankrupted and lost their farm. Who’d
just died or was about to. Who’d hung themselves from their barn
rafters that month because they were about to lose their farm.” She
creates quirky and eccentric characters whose peculiar activities make
bizarre behaviour seem commonplace.

Local colour aside, Job’s passivity and reluctance to act is annoying
rather than endearing, and readers may well wish he would hurry up and
get “reborn.” However, Anderson-Dargatz’s exquisite, meticulously
crafted prose more than compensates for character and plot challenges.

Citation

Anderson-Dargatz, Gail., “A Rhinestone Button,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/17621.