After thoroughly enjoying the audios of Gods in Alabama and Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson, I'd about decided that Southern fiction begins and ends at her front door. So much atmosphere, so much of that thick, humid, bug-infested, kudzu-choked goodness in what she writes. Plus, she manages to make her stories a notch above what you would consider "light reading" by injecting serious topics behind her laugh-to-keep-from-crying humor.
So then my literary conscience, Rhapsody Jill, sends me an e-mail and goes "Pssst. Have you read Between, Georgia yet? 'Cause you must." Similar to my attitude with David Sedaris or Sarah Vowell, I decided awhile back the only way I will read Jackson is on audio. They are just that good. So my shoulders slumped, because I assumed that I had pillaged my library's shelves for all Jackson audios. But no! They actually had two more, this being one (The Girl Who Stopped Swimming being the other), and they were promptly grabbed and uploaded. The excitement!
Synopsis: Birthed by poor unwed teenager Hazel Crabtree, Nonny Fret was adopted and raised by Stacia Frett, an upper middle-class blind and deaf woman. The Fretts have always been a tight bunch. Stacia's twin Genny, who is generally nervous, and Aunt Bernese, a loud, abrasive bull in a china shop, have pulled together to make a good home for Nonny in the small town of Between, Georgia. Having been raised in a home where sign language was a way of life, Nonny has gone on to establish a successful career in ASL interpretation.
At thirty, however, Nonny's marriage has not been so successful, and the decades-long Crabtree-Fret feud has kicked into high gear. Boiling over to a Hatfield and McCoy-esque passion, we've got dead dogs, threatening injuries, slashed tires and threats of bringing in the delinquent Crabtrees from Alabama. Ironically symbolic of her predicament, Nonny must return to Between to try to calm tempers and also resolve her feelings for her maybe soon-to-be ex-husband.
My thoughts: While this story doesn't quite have the compelling plot of "Gods in Alabama", Jackson still makes good on everything we have grown to expect from her. Rich, quirky characters that all have such unique personality traits, I think I'd know them if I saw them on the street. There's cheatin', cussin', drinkin', and shootin'...proper pastimes for Southern folk born and raised on a certain side of the tracks. And in this novel, Jackson delves into the life of a woman that suffers from Usher's Syndrome, and without the benefit of sight or sound, raises a child and makes collectible dolls.
What I also love about Jackson's style is the way she portrays her female protagonists. They are good-hearted girls who have persevered, despite the odds. Real tough women, you know? But with a soft side, and generally a long list of frailties that they are more than willing to admit. You can't help but fall in love with them, despite the fact that they don't always make good choices.
A word about the audio production: What can I say? The audio is the ONLY WAY to experience Jackson's novels because she is the narrator, and she is phenomenal at it. She has a girlish, southern twang with some comedic timing that is delivered flawlessly. She birthed these words, after all.
4 out of 5 stars