Chances are that, because it is published by a relatively small press, The Blood Girls
(NeWest, 211 pages, $16.95 paper), by Meira Cook, will not get the attention it deserves. Cook is a poet who immigrated to Canada at the age of twenty-six from South Africa and now lives in Vancouver, and it is a poet's sensibility that governs her novel: painstaking attention is paid to nuance, phrasing, cadence, linguistic implications.
The "blood girl" is eleven-year-old Donna Desjardins of Annex, Manitoba. When the week before Easter she starts bleeding from her palms and soles, both she and her small community become the focus of national media attention. However, the story that Cook forges is not the story of Donna but of her effect on others: Virginie Waters, the town doctor; Father Ricci, a Catholic priest; Daniel Halpern, an out-of-town journalist; and Molly Rhutabaga and her house companion, Regina.
While the format-using journal entries, memoirs, interview transcripts, and notes interwoven with the third-person narrative-is certainly not innovative, Cook puts it to good use, creating a structure that works in ways similar to poetry: through leaps, juxtapositions, images. Plot, although present, takes a back seat to language and symbolism. The Blood Girls is a rewarding book for those who like to take their time and think while they read.