In the seemingly endless small-town summer of 1968, a twelve-year-old girl contemplates with dread the social prospects of her fast-approaching enrollment in a class for gifted students at the local high school, arranged by her mother who “blows up” at the drop of a hat—she doesn’t intend to let her daughter marry “the first man to come along,” and she is prepared to do anything to make sure her children don’t grow up “ignorant,” like Judith’s sister, Claire. To escape her mother’s unpredictable and interminable rants, the young girl locks herself in her room with her books, escaping into a life of imagination and dreams, mostly of older guys like Marius, as beautiful as a god when he dons his softball uniform every Wednesday to play in the community park, and to whom she writes anonymous love letters.
Fortunately, there’s the prettiest girl in town to look up to. Recruited by the pop music band Bruce and the Sultans as their go-go dancer, if her audition in the big city of Montreal goes well, Claire is to accompany the band on their upcoming provincial tour. Idolized by the story’s unnamed narrator, Claire is the “big sister” she never had, but whom she shares by proxy with her best friend, Judith.
In this, her fifth book, Lise Tremblay paints a picture of rural Quebec in the years following the Quiet Revolution in her signature style so refreshingly free of artifice and literary hyperbole. Society is changing fast, new values are making inroads, but old traditions remain deeply rooted. Judith’s Sister is a coming-of-age novel that focuses on the timeless themes that preoccupy all adolescent girls: solitude, alienation, obesity, lies, sexuality, shame, madness and fear of strangers; and our inevitable first encounters with the grown-up betrayals of friends, family and community.