"If there's such a thing as spiritual adultery, my mother was a whore."Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is the coming of age/coming out story of Jeanette, a girl adopted by evangelical Pentecostal parents in 1960s Britain. It reminded me of both Running With Scissors, for the insanity and neglectful parenting that was inflicted on her, and Elmer Gantry, for the religious fervor. In Gantry, though, everybody was a hypocrite, pretending to believe in God. Here, people believe. Oh, do they believe. Jeanette's mother wanted a child, one not born of her loins, specifically to train to serve The Lord, so Jeanette grows up wanting to be a missionary and believing that she has been chosen by God. When she's young, she loses her hearing, and everyone in her congregation stops talking to her because they think she's just having an extra-spiritual experience. When the government forces her mother to send her to school, Jeanette's outspoken beliefs quickly make her an outcast, despite a truly impressive-sounding eggshell Jesus diorama.
Exorcisms are performed on Jeanette after her romance with a female convert, Melanie, is found out. She's also locked in her room for days without food until she agrees to repent. She eventually leaves home/is kicked out and stays for a time with a sympathetic teacher at her school, before leaving for a job at a mental institution.
Years later, Jeanette runs into Melanie, who had immediately acquiesced to the demands for repentance for her lesbian sins. Melanie is pushing a stroller, and vacantly talks about her husband
Allegorical fairy tales are mixed into the story, about Perceval, one of King Arthur's knights, and a girl named Winnet Stonejar who meets a sorcerer in a forest. These additions keep the novel from being an autobiography, even though most of the main plot elements happened to Winterson .
The chapters are each named for a different book of the Bible. If I had any knowledge of the Bible, I might be able to discern some deeper meanings to the events in each section, but, alas, I got nothin'. Except for the first chapter, "Genesis." I get that.