Weaving in and out of religious communities, a young girl searches for identity and acceptance in Nicole Markotic's novel Scrapbook of My Years as a Zealot.
The youngest daughter of a German mother and a Croatian father, the protagonist of this novel grows up in Western Canada feeling out of place both at home and in her community. Desperate for an identity to cleave to, she decides to become a Mormon like her best friend, Vera. For several years she attends church and Sunday school before she begins to doubt the Church and distance herself from the religion, eventually rejecting it entirely. Despite this plot line, and the book’s title, however, there is very little in here about her faith, and the reader never sees much evidence that the narrator is a religious zealot. Rather, she seems like a lost girl who attaches herself to an identity she never fully subscribes to and then eventually outgrows the game of make-believe. To describe this novel as a “scrapbook,” on the other hand, is entirely accurate; it reads more like a memoir than fiction, wandering from one area of a life to another, in a way that is natural in its disjointedness. Though Markotic deserves credit for creating an authentic voice, overall, the lack of cohesion reminds us how uninteresting other people’s scrapbooks and diaries can be. At the end of the book, the mother unexpectedly recounts her experience in World War II Germany, when she lost her crippled younger sister to the Nazis’ medical cleansing. Her story is tragic, gripping, and deftly told, completely overshadowing the main narrative.