A Rhinestone Button

A Rhinestone Button

A Novel

Book - 2002
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Random House, Inc.
Gail Anderson-Dargatz, the acclaimed and bestselling author of The Cure for Death by Lightning and A Recipe for Bees , brings readers once again into the heart of rural Canada with A Rhinestone Button . As funny as it is tender, it is a novel full of true-to-life characters, natural wonder, and sweet surprises. Despite growing up in the small farming town of Godsfinger, Alberta, Job Sunstrum was always a bit of an outsider. A thin young man with blond, curly hair, he loved baking and cooking, and certainly did not fit in with the rough-and-tumble farmboys around town. There wasn’t much understanding to be had at home on the family farm, either, where his domineering father and bully of a brother ran roughshod over his life. But even when Job takes over the farm after his father’s death and his brother’s departure to train as a pastor, his community remains his animals, and perhaps the church women with whom he shares his baking on Sundays. Lonely beyond belief, overwhelmed by religious guilt, and taut with fear at the thought of what life might have in store for him, Job can only turn to God and hope that someday, things will turn around: he will find a nice Christian woman to marry, and settle down to the farming life, as his father had before him. Only his synesthesia — his ability to see sounds as colours, and feel vibrations as solid forms — provides him with passing moments of solace, but it also reaffirms for him that he experiences the world in a way the other people of Godsfinger could not possibly understand. And that there is some sort of knowledge that everyone else shares, a certainty , that must have skipped him by. Then one year, Job’s “tightly coiled” life begins to fall apart, and even the small sureties that got him through the days are torn away from him. His brother Jacob and his family return to live on the farm, pushing Job out of his home and into the hired hand’s cabin. His neighbour Will, the closest thing he has to a friend, is exposed to the town as gay and Job is consumed with guilt by association. The colours even disappear from sounds. Faced with change on every level and not knowing how to live outside the world he was brought up in, Job allows himself to be caught up in the Pentecostal drive of a preacher named Jack Divine, in hopes that clinging to his beliefs, proving his faith, and doing what others expect of him will make everything all right. But when his new-found religious fervour only accelerates his despair and his world continues to crumble, Job is surprised to find that true faith can be found in earthly experiences, and come from the most unlikely of sources. That a world without the familiar colours and shapes of sound is not half-heard, as he feared, but freed to break out in song. Like Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s previous novels, A Rhinestone Button is a loving and magical portrait of small-town life that makes us question what we believe is real, and true. Just as sounds leap to Job’s eyes in vivid explosions of colour, the words on these pages are landmines of image and meaning, bringing the people and the landscape of Godsfinger to life in our own minds. We can hear the whistle of ducks’ wings as they fly overhead, and smell the warm grassy breath of curious cows as they cluster around our chairs. Characters break through the molds of what’s expected by their neighbours, and by us, and populate the towns of our imaginings. There’s Dithy Spitzer, the town oddball who patrols the streets with her water pistol and lectures people on safety, yet has an oracle’s ability to speak the truth; Darren, a messed-up, adultering husband haunted by the ghost of his father, whose past makes one wonder how he survived at all; Ed, Will’s ex-lover, who helps Job understand that being a good man is about more than who you have sex with; and of course Liv, a hippie waitress who doesn’t believe in God, but does believe, and ultimately leads Job to a new level of faith. And Gail Anderson-Dargatz brings her readers right along with him, on a synesthetic journey that reaffirms our faith in great stories, and great art.
Gail Anderson-Dargatz, the acclaimed and bestselling author of The Cure for Death by Lightning and A Recipe for Bees, brings readers once again into the heart of rural Canada with A Rhinestone Button. As funny as it is tender, it is a novel full of true-to-life characters, natural wonder, and sweet surprises.

Despite growing up in the small farming town of Godsfinger, Alberta, Job Sunstrum was always a bit of an outsider. A thin young man with blond, curly hair, he loved baking and cooking, and certainly did not fit in with the rough-and-tumble farmboys around town. There wasn’t much understanding to be had at home on the family farm, either, where his domineering father and bully of a brother ran roughshod over his life. But even when Job takes over the farm after his father’s death and his brother’s departure to train as a pastor, his community remains his animals, and perhaps the church women with whom he shares his baking on Sundays. Lonely beyond belief, overwhelmed by religious guilt, and taut with fear at the thought of what life might have in store for him, Job can only turn to God and hope that someday, things will turn around: he will find a nice Christian woman to marry, and settle down to the farming life, as his father had before him. Only his synesthesia — his ability to see sounds as colours, and feel vibrations as solid forms — provides him with passing moments of solace, but it also reaffirms for him that he experiences the world in a way the other people of Godsfinger could not possibly understand. And that there is some sort of knowledge that everyone else shares, a certainty, that must have skipped him by.

Then one year, Job’s “tightly coiled” life begins to fall apart, and even the small sureties that got him through the days are torn away from him. His brother Jacob and his family return to live on the farm, pushing Job out of his home and into the hired hand’s cabin. His neighbour Will, the closest thing he has to a friend, is exposed to the town as gay and Job is consumed with guilt by association. The colours even disappear from sounds. Faced with change on every level and not knowing how to live outside the world he was brought up in, Job allows himself to be caught up in the Pentecostal drive of a preacher named Jack Divine, in hopes that clinging to his beliefs, proving his faith, and doing what others expect of him will make everything all right. But when his new-found religious fervour only accelerates his despair and his world continues to crumble, Job is surprised to find that true faith can be found in earthly experiences, and come from the most unlikely of sources. That a world without the familiar colours and shapes of sound is not half-heard, as he feared, but freed to break out in song.

Like Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s previous novels, A Rhinestone Button is a loving and magical portrait of small-town life that makes us question what we believe is real, and true. Just as sounds leap to Job’s eyes in vivid explosions of colour, the words on these pages are landmines of image and meaning, bringing the people and the landscape of Godsfinger to life in our own minds. We can hear the whistle of ducks’ wings as they fly overhead, and smell the warm grassy breath of curious cows as they cluster around our chairs. Characters break through the molds of what’s expected by their neighbours, and by us, and populate the towns of our imaginings. There’s Dithy Spitzer, the town oddball who patrols the streets with her water pistol and lectures people on safety, yet has an oracle’s ability to speak the truth; Darren, a messed-up, adultering husband haunted by the ghost of his father, whose past makes one wonder how he survived at all; Ed, Will’s ex-lover, who helps Job understand that being a good man is about more than who you have sex with; and of course Liv, a hippie waitress who doesn’t believe in God, but does believe, and ultimately leads Job to a new level of faith. And Gail Anderson-Dargatz brings her readers right along with him, on a synesthetic journey that reaffirms our faith in great stories, and great art.

Publisher: Toronto : Knopf, 2002
ISBN: 9780676975499
9780676975505
0676975496
067697550X
Characteristics: 319 p. ; 22 cm

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sloanelCPL
May 07, 2019

A Rhinestone Button by Gail Anderson-Dargatz is, at one level, about cruelty. I found parts of this very difficult to read – the casual verbal abuse based on Job’s looks paints a discouraging picture of humanity. The child abuse and animal abuse was difficult. Such emotional cruelty: After Emma’s death, “Abe cried at night, and his boys heard him through the thin walls of the house, but he didn’t tolerate their tears… “Quit that or I’ll give you something to cry about.” There is, in the face of such prevalent cruelty, some kindness: Crystal, Liv, Ed.

A second important layer: the hypocrisy and abuse potential in evangelical fundamentalist religion. Evangelizing through guilt. Penny’s “We’ll see who gets the most converts. It’s like a scavenger hunt!” And worst, the section on fundamentalist religion-based conversion ‘therapy’ on Will made me feel nauseous.

But I liked the synesthesia. I liked the role the ducks played, from the pet mallard that Ed and Will had to the dead bufflehead dropping out of the sky to hit the back of Job’s head. The pet mallard, kicked out, giving Will the sign he was looking for. And so on, with a woodpecker thrown in for variety. I liked Dithy – calling Divine on his hypocrisy. “Shit just happens.”

Grace came back (the cat that disappeared after Lilith’s cruelty). GRACE CAME BACK after the 2nd tornado. It is a relief that things got better for Job towards the end: “… in his face an ease, a happiness, had crept in. If he saw that man on the street, he’d want to know him. Count him as a friend.” He is healed by mindfulness: “Job collected moments like these, noting the colours in the duck’s wings, the smell of thawing earth, the cool of the beer in one hand and the warmth of Liv’s hand in the other. … who knew what else this world might offer him if he was attentive to its details.” “… it might be that God was found, not in a church or some hazy hereafter, but in the tart taste of a beer, in the worm hand of a lover, on the whistling wings of ducks flying low overhead.”

e
elinpat
Sep 08, 2011

I loved this book. I would recommend Anderson-Dargatz to anyone. This story takes place in Alberta in farm country that is soon to be overcome by development due to a tornado. A deus ex machina but I didn't care. It is the story of a young man brought up in the extreme evangelistic culture run generation after generation by men who feel their role is to be brutal to their families. The protagonist, Job, is different because he is angelic looking and synaethesiastic (sounds are colours and shapes). He is cowed by the society in which he lives and is very shy and tentative but kind and sensitive to all the beauty of nature around him. It is his story of his struggle to overcme his meekness and find his own way, while remaining a good person. I was inspired by her descriptions of the physical world and understanding of the small hard won victories that make life itself glorious.

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