Vilmur, Jules. The Complicated Geography of Alice. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform , 2014. $16.95. 325p. PB. 978-1-50-3021-76-1.
By the time Jules Vilmur’s 14-year-old child came out as transgender, Alice was already self-medicating to deal with gender dysphoria. Jules accepted Alice’s revelation from the outset and tried to be the best possible mother for a transgender teenager. Her narrative of the year following Alice’s transition is a roller-coaster ride of emotions from hope that living as a girl would resolve Alice’s anger and addictions to despair that no institution seemed able to help Alice. There are moments of humor and deep tenderness.
Vilmur is brutally honest about the strains on her marriage and her family. At times it seems like the fates are piling on to an extent that would be called melodrama in fiction but are utterly convincing as she struggles to cope. The story, and especially the outcome, are tough to read but provide an important picture of mental pain that even a loving and affirming family could not cure.
I would not want this to be the first book read when a family discovers they have a transgender child. Further along, it could help build understanding, especially if a transgender teenager is still struggling despite family acceptance. For general readers, teens and adults who care about them, Alice’s story will be vivid and compelling. The last sentence will stay with readers for a long time.
Carolyn Caywood, retired from Virginia Beach Public Library