I have to admit, the title The Cannabean Betrothal confused me. I avoided reading it for weeks, convinced it was about an arranged marriage in which the dowry consisted entirely of marijuana. I nearly passed on it altogether, but then I remembered how much I love ItzMegan73's other stories, A Rough Start and The Tutor, both of which are tender and warm without sacrificing necessary realism.
About to take the plunge, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what pot-smoking Rastaward would look like. It was a bit of a stretch, but then again, so were Tattward and Piercedpeenward. I pressed forward, thinking I'd read the prologue and decide then if I wanted to continue. From the very first sentence, it was not what I expected:
I quickly read through the available chapters (during which not a single character smoked a doobie) and realized Cannabeans are completely unrelated to cannabis. Even more surprising, I found myself ravenous for the next chapter--a reaction which, based on the prologue, I did not anticipate I would have.
In the opening chapters, we meet Carlisle and Esme Cullen and their three adult sons, Emmett, Jasper, and Edward. The (fictitious) religious communiity to which they belong is dwindling, and finding an apropriately pious Cannabean wife for Edward is far more easily said than done. When Bella arrives in Forks with her parents, Edward takes interest in her immediately. Educated yet dutiful, she is the physical manifestation of all of Edward's ideals. He asks for an introduction, and their courtship begins.
Told in third person, each chapter opens with a fact about Cannabean marriage practices making the story almost feel like a documentary. As details are revealed, we learn that underneath the carefully cultivated exterior of the ideal Canneban family, the Cullens are not what they seem. The three brothers barely speak with one another because of a mysterious rift that occurred a few years in the past. Edward did not always ascribe to Cannabean teachings, but changed his mind during a dark period in his life. For reasons as of yet undisclosed, Edward seems to want Bella to have nothing to do with Alice.
As a person who largely detests both organized religion and patriarchy, I was prepared to pity the lot of them. Instead, I'm starting to recognize the appeal of insular faith-based comunities. When religious doctrine dictates life choices, non-believers often focus on the experiences its followers will never have. It's hard to imagine never going out on an unchaperoned date or not being able to wear a sleeveless dress. The Cannabean Betrothal presents us with the other side. Yes, the religion itself is strict but so far, every person we have seen practicing it is doing so by choice. Cannabeans undoubtedly miss out on some of what life has to offer, but conversely, they are spared a great deal of heartache. Ignorance can indeed be bliss.
The first time I read Twilight, I remember feeling blown away by its not-so-subtle religious subtext, but because of its genre I didn't think too much about it. Young adult novels are often thinly veiled cautionary tales extolling the benefits of chastity, integrity and hard work, sometimes without aknowledging the existence of an alternative. The Twilight Saga was not an exception. Bella wants to have premarital sex with Edward, but (Eclipse notwithstanding) she relinquishes the decision to him. Truth be told, she relinquinshes the majority of her decisions to him. They marry, and after she reiterates the novel's abstinence message in her internal monolgue, the narrative fades to black. From that moment until the very end, Bella's life becomes the penultimate happily ever after. We're so distracted by her dreams coming true, we never ask what happens next. We never know if Bella's complete faith in person, seemingly worthy though he may be, ever fails her. We fade to black a final time, resulting in an idealized fairy-tale with an obvious message--be good, dress modestly, stay chaste, and listen to your man. It's so... Dare I say it?... Cannabean.
And this is what makes The Cannabean Betrothal so compelling. It takes the subtext of the original and makes it overt, and the result is every bit as fascinating. Will Cannabean Bella reap all the rewards given to canon Bella? Only time will tell. Regardless of the outcome, I have sneaking suspicion there will be no fade to black.
Sleepyvalentina is a retired actress for whom the fandom is the latest in a series of diversions she has used to avoid actual productivity. While not working on Art After 5, Counterpoint, and My Life to Be, she can be found in Philadelphia, fake smoking and drunk tweeting.