“I Should Have Known” is another fine novel dealing with the topic of gender change, penned by Karin Bishop, a prolific writer who specializes in such novels. Bishop also brings a wealth of knowledge in a wide range of other areas, displaying an array of expertise ranging from legal matters, business strategies, hi-tech and yes, even women’s fashion, while incorporating them seamlessly into her work. The blending of these disparate themes is accomplished smoothly and in the context of a tightly woven story line, but mainly works because Ms. Bishop happens to possess the gift of being an astute observer of human nature and behavior. This is evidenced by her very apt characterizations of the protagonists and the interactions between these extremely believable people.
Additionally, and more to the point, Ms. Bishop appears to have made an in-depth study of the gender roles that we so mindlessly accept as normal, natural and even God-given. Her expertise in this area is quite evident as our hero Edward begins his tantalizing transformation into the female persona of Edie. A portion of this book presents like a cram course in what it takes to live in a woman’s role, revealing with eye-opening clarity, the everyday differences between the genders that we all tend to take for granted. It turns out that some of these little ways we all have of being, thinking and interacting are quite humorous and enchanting, while others speak to the deepest prejudices of the human experience and the darkest parts of our psyche.
However, that’s the good news. On the other side of the coin, we also get an undercurrent and the foreboding feeling that something very nasty is afoot in this story. We slowly begin to see that the emergent and lovely Edie, in all her innocence and naiveté, never realizes the extent that wife Monica's strange and clandestine interventions are influencing her gender transformation. In fact, from early on, one gets the feeling that there is something quite diabolical and sinister about the relationship between Monica and her new friend Diana that we can’t quite put our finger on. But all signs point to a nefarious connection between the two that we can predict will emerge somewhere along the line as the story unfolds.
This is a rich tale, fraught with vivid descriptions of gender transition, lovely romantic interludes and enough graphic encounters of an intimate kind that will support the reader in being fully vested in this novel from the start. And for those of us who have at one time or another had the misfortune of finding and then losing the love of our life, there is also a thread of sadness, despair and longing that weaves through this tale. Edie, now emergent as the young woman who can no longer be a husband and lover to a wife, now pines for a relationship that cannot ever be, and perhaps never even was. Somewhere, in the back of our mind though, we wonder if Monica is actually deserving of such rich adulation, or is Edie simply idealizing a flawed, deceitful and manipulative person with a florid dark side?
[Reviewed by Samuel]