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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
Chapter 1: Genesis
Jeanette, the protagonist, begins this section of the novel with a description of her mother, whom she details in antagonistic terms. Shunning sex, her mother adopts a foundling, whom she names Jeanette. Throughout Jeanette's life, her mother has actively sought confrontation-- from the wind, the Mormons, or the Labour party. Jeanette's mother also reduces things in the world to either "good" or "evil." For example, "enemies" include the devil (in his many forms), "Next Door," sex, and slugs; "friends" include God, "our" dog, Auntie Madge, the novels of Charlotte Brontë, and slug pellets. Jeanette adds that in the beginning she was also included in the list of friends.
On Sundays when she was young, Jeanette and her mother would sit by the radio and listen to the World Service, a missionary program. Jeanette's mother would quiz her daughter on the Bible and make her take notes on what the missionaries needed so that she could report to the congregation.
One day, while Jeanette is walking home, she passes a gypsy woman who grabs her hand and tells her that she will never marry. Jeanette thinks to herself that she knows of only two women who do not have husbands, and they are the ones who run the paper shop and the ones who give her a banana bar with her comic book. These women ask her to go to the beach with them one day, and when she asks her mother, she responds with a firm and final "no." She also tells Jeanette that she is never to go to the store again. When Jeanette's mother tells her friend, Mrs. White about the incident, Jeanette overhears Mrs. White say that the women have "unnatural passions." Jeanette does not understand what this means, but assumes that it has to do with additives in their candies.
Jeanette's narrative then switches to a story about a princess who is so sensitive that the death of a moth can distress her for weeks. No one in the kingdom knows what to do about her trouble; then an old hunchback woman says that if the princess will take over her responsibilities of milking goats, educating the people, and composing festival songs, she herself can die. The princess agrees to help her, and in doing so, forgets all about the palace and her worries.