Marie’s Reading: “Between, Georgia” by Joshilyn Jackson

between georgiaNonny is used to being in the middle.  Her birth mother was a Crabtree (low-class, prone to violence, owners of Dobermans and scary Alabama relatives), but she was adopted by the Fretts (solid middle-class, reined-in, icy types, prone to their own kind of violence).  The tiny town of Between is barely big enough for these two sparring clans.

When Nonny’s aunt is attacked by one of the Crabtree dogs, a whole new cycle of feuding is set off.  This time it could be deadly.  Nonny, herself in the middle of a divorce, finds herself back in Between (and in between) once again.

Whenever I’m in the mood for a novel with a solid story, a great sense of place, and robust characters, I go for Jackson’s work.  She writes relationships extremely well, particularly between women in a family–she has real insight into the dynamics of sisters, mothers and daughters, and grandmothers and their grandkids.

The Frett sisters, who raised Nonny, really are forces–stolid, judgmental but loyal Bernese, anxious and fretful Genny, and kind and artistic Stacia, the one who raised Nonny.  Stacia is deaf and blind, as well, adding another layer to her relationship to her family and her art.  Ona Crabtree, Nonny’s blood grandmother, comes across as damaged and brittle and not very nice, but she’s still got a basic humanity.  As becomes clear over the course of the story, these women have more in common than they like to believe.

The Southern setting is great as well.  It feels as though these characters, though recognizable small-town types, couldn’t live anywhere else.  And of course the town is a character all on its own, just as Southern as its people.  There’s a sort of earthy fierceness beneath a veneer of gentility that’s just so distinct to the South, along with a strong sense of family.  This story would be very different if set among we stoic, independent, chilly New Englanders, for instance.

This really is a novel to read for the characters and the setting.  The plots do all wrap up nicely and there are some revelations and tragedy, but I found the enjoyable storyline second to everything else.

If you’re after the same sort of read I was–one with great characters, a good story, and a strong setting, all told in laidback, very natural prose–give this one a look!

–Marie

 

Advertisements

Marie’s Reading: “Whistling Past the Graveyard” by Susan Crandall

whistling Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall invites comparison with Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird.  Plot-wise, it is Huckleberry Finn, more or less, just set during the Civil Rights era and with a female cast.

The story: Starla is a sassy red-headed kid who lives with her grandmother, Mamie, in 1960’s Mississippi.  After getting grounded yet again for un-ladylike behavior, Starla decides she’s had enough of Mamie.  She’s going to hitch her way to Nashville, where her mother is a country singer, and live with her instead.  But who should pick Starla up but a young black woman named Eula…who just happens to have a white baby in tow.  From there it’s a coming of age story intertwined with a road trip tale, examining race, love, and loyalty along the way.

Continue reading

Surprise Smekday!

It’s that special time again: Meme Time!

I’m currently in the middle of a few nonfiction books (book club, you know), the novel Main Street (on husband’s recommendation–review to come!), am moving house (!), am attempting to finalize a ready reference training for our annual All Staff Day (ha), and I have to catalog a huge order of audiobooks because I can’t figure out how to tell my vendor not to send them all at once (grr).

Lots going on in my brainpan.  No room for all the books in my book bag.

So who’s getting the old heave-ho this week?

golden applesIt’s The Golden Apples by Eudora Welty!

In his lovely book Classics for Pleasure, Michael Dirda recommended Welty’s collection of interconnected stories set in a fictional Mississippi town.  The stories concern the lives of and connection between several different families.  It promises to be textured, multi-layered, and full of allusion.

I really can’t wait to read it!  Just…sometime that isn’t right now.

I just don’t deserve you at the moment, Golden Apples.  Let’s take a break until I can give you my best reader-self.

 

–Marie

Marie’s Reading: “The Sweet In-Between” by Sheri Reynolds

I read one of Reynolds’ other books, A Gracious Plenty, a few months ago, and was immediately hooked on her writing style and characters.  Fans of the Southern Gothic tradition should definitely give her books a try. Continue reading