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The Story of My Face

by Kathy Page

The Story of My Face begins with Natalie Baron, an academic specialist in religious studies, arriving in the small town of Elijoki, Finland. She has come to research the life and spiritual path of Tuomas Envall, a 19th-century village pastor who founded a radical religious movement. As a 13-year-old, Natalie became involved with this Protestant sect, and that involvement is at the root of the story of her disfigured face and body. The novel alternates skilfully between Natalie’s adult search for answers both to her own past and to the sect’s history, and her involvement with the Hern family, Envallist followers themselves, during the summer of the first moon landing.

The raw material of The Story of My Face borders on cliché – a religious cult, a mysterious injury, a young girl’s loss of innocence, an adult narrative to reconcile the past – but West Coast author Kathy Page creates a work of originality and emotional insight. Natalie, for example, is not an innocent but a master manipulator who worms her way into the Hern family. The Envallists are not a true cult, as it turns out, and Natalie’s research adds more to her understanding of herself than to any undermining of their beliefs.

The Story of My Face is a novel of searching for belonging, of the amelioration of loss, of the sublimation of sin, and the lingering impact of secrecy and guilt. The characters are vivid and compelling, and there are no cheap epiphanies here, just the pain of understanding and the quiet peace of coming to terms with the past.


Reviewer: Robert Wiersema

Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson/McArthur & Company


Price: $29.95

Page Count: 240 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-297-60785-5

Released: May

Issue Date: 2002-6

Categories: Fiction: Novels

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