Jeanette returns home one day early after a violin lesson has been cancelled and finds her mother and Mrs. White cleaning the house most thoroughly. She wonders why they are doing as such and asks Mrs. White, as her mother has now left to do some errands, but we are thrust into a memory regarding an ‘awful occasion’.
The situation involved the return of Jeanette’s biological mother, who arrived to ask for Jeanette back. Jeanette uses a glass to listen in on the conversation between the mothers and cries after learning about the truth. Though she knows she is adopted, she is not entirely aware of the details.
Her mother finds her crying and demands to know why, with her replying that her biological parent is her mother. Her adoptive parent then calls the other a ‘carrying case’ whilst she is her real mother.
Jeanette then realises that the feeling she felt then is comparable to one she feels now with Melanie and how she hasn’t told her mother. The two have spent most of their time together at Elsie’s, where they are treated warmly and courteously, and the one time in which the pair stayed together at her mother’s was riddled with demands and checkups to make sure they weren’t misbehaving. Finally, Jeanette finds the power to tell her mother but it leads to her becoming very distant from her.
Jeanette has just come back from walking the dog and finds a note left by her mother explaining that she is staying with Mrs. White and that she should meet them in the church in the morning. Jeanette and Melanie then spend the night together, talking and wondering why their intimacy feels so good if it’s seen as something bad.
Jeanette and Melanie wake up and prepare to go to church, kissing one another and sharing in loving bliss. They take their time, however, and arrive at church late, whereupon Miss Jewsbury tells Jeanette to talk to her after the proceedings in a private space. She then notices her mother weeping at the altar.
The pastor calls Jeanette and Melanie forward and begins to speak of their corruption by the devil. Jeanette rebels and claims that her love for Melanie is not impure and that she can love both God and Melanie at the same time with the same amount of affection. Melanie, however, crumbles immediately and agrees to stop. The pastor orders Jeanette to go home so the others can come and help her.
However, she is taken by Miss Jewbury to her house and informed that she and Elsie Norris share the same ‘problem’ as Jeanette. After a short spell of disturbed sleep, Jeanette wakes up to find Miss Jewsbury leaning over her. The pair make love, and though Jeanette doesn’t entirely want it, she cannot stop it.
When Jeanette returns to her home, she finds the pastor and a group prepared to ‘fix’ her. She attempts to sneak by but the pastor commences the procedure and the group spends hours praying for her sins to be taken away. Jeanette resists, however, and the pastor orders her mother to lock her in her room and starve her until the next day.
During this time, she experiences hallucinations in which an orange demon approaches her and forces her to question her religion. It won’t reveal whether it’s a man or a woman, claiming that dilemma to be her own problem. Jeanette then realises that this must be a manifestation of her ability to still love Melanie. After the day has passed and the pastor returns, she fakes a confession.
Finally being allowed freedom, Jeanette goes to Miss Jewsbury’s and asks her where Melanie is. Miss Jewsbury then takes her to Halifax, where she has moved, and she finds sleep with her. She has a dream in which she is imprisoned in a tower that she climbs onto to find a door to a bookshop. The lady behind the counter tells her to begin work as a browser and that she is in a place where people can’t ‘make the ultimate decision’. She and Melanie then both wake up, cry, and make love.
When Jeanette returns home, she falls ill. Her mother has burnt most of her journals and destroyed all her links to Melanie. She experiences the same orange demon visions whilst in this sick state. Her mother doesn’t care for her properly and instead relies upon giving her oranges to act as a remedy.
As summer comes around, Jeanette has recovered tremendously and feels she is back to ‘normal’. Melanie has gone off to college and she works well on a mission in Blackpool, where she meets Katy, a convert. Her mother and herself, however, have only grown more distant. Jeanette feels herself falling in love with Katy.
Melanie, However, arrives for a service and sits at the back as Jeanette leads the event. She then visits her home, which troubles Jeanette, and a long bus journey next to her confirms her feelings of sickness. At a Bible study later that day, Katy invites Jeanette to stay at her house, which she accepts.
We are left with a description of a garden upon the Euphrates where people complete their true quests. At the centre of the garden is an orange tree that, once the fruit has been eaten, allows the consumer to think of longings and leave, never sure if they will return.
That weekend, Jeanette and Katy have sex and she finds it a blissful experience. Melanie arrived again, however, and informs her that she is marrying an army man, news she is ambivalent about, but she shows a negative reaction when the husband-to-be shows knowledge of their lesbian affair even though he forgives it.
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
This is the story of Jeanette, adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God’s elect. Zealous and passionate, she seems destined for life as a missionary, but then she falls for one of her converts.
At sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family, for the young woman she loves. Innovative, punchy and tender, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a few days ride into the bizarre outposts of religious excess and human obsession.