This section contains 2,106 words
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The Guineveres Summary & Study Guide Description
The Guineveres Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
The following version version of the book was used to create this guide: Domet, Sarah. The Guineveres. Flatiron Books, 2016.
The Guineveres, by Sarah Domet, tells the story of four girls, all named Guinevere, who grow up in a convent as the result of being left there by their families for various reasons. As they live lives ordered by the rhythms and routines of the nuns, The Guineveres discover family in one another and learn lessons faith and what it means to be happy.
As the book begins, Vere, who is the narrator, explains that the four girls all named Guinevere came to live at the convent over a period of two years. Vere, Ginny, Win, and Gwen, as they are individually called, form a bond over their shared name and decide they want to escape the convent to live normal lives.
They build a float for the Assumption of Mary parade and hide inside of it, but they are caught before they can run away. They are sentenced to serve out their punishment by helping the nurses in the Sick Ward. While they are working there, five soldiers who were injured in the war are brought in. They are all unconscious and their identities are unknown.
Ginny tells the story of her arrival at the convent. She is there as a result of her father killing her mother after discovering her with another man. Ginny’s father was sent to jail. Ginny’s brother was able to live with their aunt, but Ginny was sent to the convent. She still loves her father and chooses not to judge him because of one mistake.
When one of the soldiers wakes up and is able to tell the nuns that his name is Jack Murr and he goes by Junior, his family comes to get him. Another girl, Ebbie, who has also been working in the Sick Ward goes home with his family to help with his recovery. The Guineveres are upset that she is able to leave the convent before turning 18.
After attending mass during which Father James preaches about miracles, Ginny comes up with the idea that each of The Guineveres might go home with the one of the remaining soldiers when they wake the same way that Ebbie went home with Junior’s family. The girls start spending a great deal of time taking care of the soldiers and trying to wake them up.
Gwen decides that each of The Guineveres should choose one soldier as her own so that they can concentrate their efforts and prayers on one man, sort of like patron saints. She reasons that it will also make it easier to know which Guinevere will get to go home with which boy as they wake. The Guineveres each choose a soldier and talk to one another what their lives will be like with their soldiers when they leave the convent.
The Guineveres talk about what they will confess in the monthly penance service and Gwen decides they should all kiss their boys and confess that. Vere is unable to go through with kissing her boy after she discovers he has an erection and it makes her uncomfortable.
At Thanksgiving, Father James preaches while drunk. Afterward, while The Guineveres work on paintings while waiting for Thanksgiving dinner to be ready, Ginny says she is in love with her boy. Reggie, another girl who lives at the convent, tries to join them while they paint and they turn her away. The other girls say The Guineveres are just unhappy because their parents did not want them.
Sister Fran calls The Guineveres to her office and tells them their punishment time is over. She informs them that they have been chosen as altar servers, which is exciting because only boys have been allowed to do this in the past. They will serve at regular church services and at the Wednesday service in the Sick Ward.
Father James trains The Guineveres in their duties as altar servers. During their first mass as altar servers a man reads the petitions and mentions a missing soldier named Peter Drexel whose parents are part of the congregation. After the service Ginny asks Father James about Peter Drexel and he tells them that his fate is unknown and that not all soldiers were involved in the war willingly.
On Mail Distribution Day The Guineveres do not receive any letters, but watch as the other girls get letters and Christmas cards.
On Wednesday, The Guineveres serve at the mass in the Sick Ward. Father James serves the elderly patients communion, but does not serve the soldiers because they do not know what faith they follow or if they have confessed recently.
The Guineveres find duffels belonging to their boys in the storage room of the Sick Ward. They each take a memento from their respective boy’s bag, except for Vere who is interrupted before she can look in her boy’s bag.
Win tells the story of how she came to the convent. Win’s mother brought her to the convent after she kissed a girl and then punched her. Win’s mother was not angry about Win punching the girl, but when she found out that Win kissed her first, she decided to take Win to the convent even though her grandparents did not want her to go.
The Guineveres go to the library and try to find information that might lead them to the identities of their boys. They discover that a symbol on a box in Ginny’s boy’s bag is a pagan symbol, so they think they should baptize their boys.
Two weeks before Christmas The Guineveres get ready for mass and can see that Father James has been drinking again. In the service Father James asks the congregation to write letters to the Veterans Administration on behalf of Peter Drexel’s parents asking that they look into his whereabouts.
After the service The Guineveres go into Father James’ office and find that he is hiding a bottle of wine under his robes. Gwen grabs the bottle and drinks from it, then passes it around to the other Guineveres. They are drunk when they walk back toward the convent. They decide to visit their boys and are told that they cannot go in because some parents have come to see if any of the boys is their son. None of them belongs to the couple.
The Guineveres baptize their boys as the nuns walk the couple out. Vere notices that her boy gets an erection when she lays her head on his chest. Gwen sees and teases Vere.
On the night of the Christmas Eve Midnight Vigil The Guineveres find Father James passed out drunk in his office. They wake him and he preaches by candlelight so the congregation does not see that he is drunk.
After the service The Guineveres sit on a hill and drink a bottle of whiskey they took from Father James. When they are very drunk they go into the Sick Ward and lay down with their boys. In the morning Ginny is discovered passed out by a radiator. She does not tell Sister Fran that the other Guineveres were also drinking or that she got the whiskey from Father James. Ginny is not at dinner and is gone for several days.
Ginny returns and tells The Guineveres she was serving her punishment in the Penance Room on the third floor. While there she found a staircase that leads from the third floor to the Sick Ward. The girls decide to use it to sneak in and see their boys during the night. Ginny also says that Father James owes them and that they should blackmail him into taking them to the Veterans Administration to try to find out more about their boys.
When the girls use the stairwell to sneak into the Sick Ward during the night they find that the door automatically locks behind them so they are forced to sneak past Sister Fran’s office to get back to the Bunk Room. They stop in her office to call Junior’s house to see if he knows anything about their boys. They find out that Junior committed suicide and Ebbie left.
Father James sends a note to Sister Fran asking for The Guineveres to come for further training. The girls believe he is going to take them to the Veterans Administration, but he is passed out drunk when they get there. Ginny is desperate to leave and frantically searches his office for his car keys.
Ginny’s boy dies while Father James is on hiatus. The Guineveres continue to sneak into the Sick Ward. One night Vere’s boy briefly wakes up but she is too startled to remember to ask his name. He slips back into a coma.
On the morning before Easter The Guineveres wake up to find Ginny gone. Father James tells them she has been sent to the Penance Room because she was found naked in her boys empty bed. The nuns are worried about her mental state. As the girls walk back from Father James’ office Ginny steps out of the bushes looking disheveled and acting erratically. She begs The Guineveres to run away with her, but they refuse. Ginny leaves on her own and is found. Sister Fran sends her away and The Guineveres do not see her again.
Gwen tells her story. As a child her father paid a great deal of attention to her and told her that she was the prettiest girl. He bought her secret gifts and took her for drives where they would hold hands and talk. When Gwen starts at a new school the other girls do not like her because she is pretty. Three boys start to pay a lot of attention to her. One day they convince her to come with them after school and they rape her. When she tells her father, he kisses her on the lips. A few days later he takes her to the convent and tells her that sometimes men cannot help what they want.
The Guineveres write letters to the Veterans Administration and Sister Fran mails them. Guinevere’s boy’s facial bandages are removed and she discovers that his face is a ruin. She begins to lose interest in him.
After mass one day The Guineveres can again tell that Father James has been drinking. Gwen sits very close to Father James and tells the other girls to leave them alone. They reluctantly leave.
Vere wakes up one night and discovers that Gwen is not in her bed. When she asks Gwen about it the next day Gwen claims she was in the bathroom, but is very defensive.
Win is called to Sister Fran’s office. Vere and Gwen see her standing with a woman who looks like an older version of Win. Win is gone that night.
Vere and Gwen receive form letters from the Veterans Administration. Gwen says that they do not care about the soldiers, but Vere remains hopeful.
Sister Fran discovers that Gwen is pregnant and calls Vere to her office where she is questioning Gwen. Gwen admits that she had sex with Vere’s soldier and the baby is his. Vere forgives the baby, but tells Gwen she has to forgive herself.
Vere tells her story. She grew up mostly homeless and her mother was mentally ill. Her mother was convinced their family was cursed and that she would die before she turned 33. When that did not happen she claimed to have a vision that Vere needed to get an education. She took Vere to the convent and left her there.
Vere continues to be friends with Gwen and helps her to alter her clothing for her pregnancy. However, they no longer talk very much. Gwen is moved to the Penance Room in her eighth month and gives birth to the baby in the Sick Ward. After that, she is sent away and leaves the baby behind.
Vere is given the chance to go and live with a family that has agreed to take her in, but she refuses saying that she wants to stay at the convent and care for the baby. Sister Fran allows her to do so.
Vere and the baby, who she names Guinevere, move into the Penance Room. Vere has written The Guineveres as the child’s revival story so that she will have answers about her life. Vere still loves her boy and works in the kitchen at the convent.
This section contains 2,106 words
(approx. 6 pages at 400 words per page)