For me, 2013 has been the year of novels about lesser known and often ridiculed Christian sects. Weird, I know. And the even odder thing is that I have really liked all of them, especially The Friday Gospels, Elders and Amity and Sorrow. Well throw Watch How We Walk by Jennifer Lovegrove onto the pile as well, because it was amazing.
The thing about Watch How We Walk is that it just get better as you read. The first chapter left me thinking it was good, but nothing too special. But as all the pieces start to fall together and the subtleties glide to the forefront it wallops you in a really great way.
The story focuses on Emily and her coming of age in a Jehovah Witness family. Her older sister is overtly rebellious and dapples in punk music. Her father clings to his religion like it is a life buoy and her mother seems uninterested in the JW life. So where does Emily fit in? The story also jumps ahead to when Emily is in her twenties. The hints at psychological trauma alluded to in her childhood become the major force in her life.
There are so many stunning scenes in the later part for the novel that I literally shut the door and told my family to leave me alone. I read the novel in less that 24 hours and loved just about every second of it. Lovegrove does a great job at exploring the complexities of life through the lens of a pre-adolescent.
Who would like this book? This book would appeal to a wide range of people, but I am going to pin point children of the eighties. It seems like all good books set in the eighties have a pretty kick-ass sound track to accompany them, and Watch How We Walk is not different. Emily’s sister is moving into punk territory and music I was not familiar with, but she also references The Cure, The Cult and The Misfits. The music beautifully accompanies the angst of fitting in, especially when you come from a conservative background. If the growing up in the punk ’80s aspect appeals to you then I beg you, you must go read Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson. It is one of the most underrated and under-read great novels of the last five years.