Big Toe People - Kristine Kohut (2014)

Set in Washington DC, this centres around five recent college graduates who have moved to the city to study at the university. The five girls are completely different to each other: there is Yoli, who is studying law, a Chinese adoptee who has a major chip on her shoulder because her adoptive parents are more in love with their missionary work than being with her. Yoli is a feisty, outspoken character with a penchant for bad boys and late nights out in rebellion to her parents' lifestyle. Then there is fellow law student Paulina: a studious, hardworking engineering graduate whose infamous parents' former lifestyle has had a major impact on her. But rather than rebelling, Paulina has found comfort in Christianity but resorts to binge drinking when she is stressed. Ria is engaged to her childhood sweetheart Trigger, having moved from her native Nebraska to study a Masters in Education and be near her fiance. Ria is the epitome of the blonde cheerleader; from a good Catholic family and living a seemingly charmed life. Dowdy Ashley has been cosseted by her parents and is naive in the ways of the world. She is having a secret affair with a church youth leader who is awakening her inner sexuality but to what cost? Finally, there is Karyn, Yoli's best friend, who is also enrolled in law. Karyn is a beautiful girl who is fearless and intelligent. Yet whilst she plays the field, secretly she yearns for her Mr Right but feels that he does not exist. The book shows the trials and tribulations of the five over a seven-month period in the first year of graduate school. This was a mammoth book that dealt with so many issues. The author cleverly portrays the pressures that many young people face in the 21st century with regards to sex, dating, careers, life choices and the effects wild lifestyles can wreak on the psyche due to peer pressure. Underlying all these issues though is the common link between the characters; that of how faith can be a beacon of light in a convoluted world. The writer cleverly shows how rather than using drink and a hedonistic lifestyle to find themselves, the characters examine their behaviour in relation to the grounding and security which the Bible has to offer. Although I am not religious per se, I found this element very effective and it was interesting to see how once religion is brought into each character's life, they undergo a metamorphosis and once committing to their faith, it helps them navigate their way through their own personal trials. Rather than being "big toe people", it is only when they embrace their religious convictions fully; they find the way forward in their own life path. This was an insightful novel - I really felt I went on a personal journey with each of the characters. They were brilliantly structured and very empathetic individuals; I really cared for them as people. The writing flowed beautifully and even though the book was over 600 pages, nonetheless, the plot never waived. (LP)

Back to Home