Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming - Joshilyn Jackson (Audio)

Before I started blogging I was a very focused reader.  I would discover a series or an author, and I would read absolutely everything that person had to offer.  That doesn't happen much anymore...just too much ground to cover.  But there are exceptions.  Sarah Waters, Marisa de los Santos (even though she's only written two, but I'm just sayin'), and Joshilyn Jackson.  I have consumed every Joshilyn Jackson book with vigor, starting with "Gods in Alabama", which I believe to be her best, proceeded by "Backseat Saints", "Between, Georgia", and now this one.  For me to get on this kind of roll is rare these days, so you must know that Jackson has something special going on.

What is it about Jackson that is so appealing to me?  Well, all her books are Southern.  All the stories have very strong female characters, all of them with Big Issues.  There is abuse, divorce, bigotry, childhood secrets, alcoholism, death, murder, you name it.  But as dour as all this sounds, it never is with Jackson.  Her ladies laugh to keep from crying because that is the Southern Way, and if that doesn't work, they take action.  Jackson's characters are flawed and lovable and real, and every damn one of them pries their way into your psyche.  If you read her books, you'll remember them, I promise.

With the exception of "Gods in Alabama", Jackson narrates her own audiobooks too.  If she were ever uninspired to write another book, she could make her living narrating because she is that good.  She is a personality unto herself, and that essence fills up my ears in every production and makes me love her even more.

But I'm pretty sure by now you are tired of hearing me pledge my undying loyalty here, so why don't I tell you a little bit about the book?

Synopsis:  Laurel didn't always have the perfect life.  She came from a poor, uneducated family rife with problems of drinking, abuse and denial.  But she escaped and is now a high-end quilt designer, married to a quiet but successful video game designer David, has a happy healthy 13-year-old daughter Shelby, and lives in a bubble of predictable suburbia (a lifestyle her unorthodox, take-no-prisoners sister Thalia loathes). 

One night, however, Laurel's perfect world is turned upside down when she sees the ghost of a young friend of Shelby's, and soon realizes the girl has drowned in Laurel's back yard pool.  Why was the girl even there in the middle of the night?  And why is Shelby acting so guilty?  Against her husband's wishes, Laurel calls in her sister Thalia to run interference with the cops and figure out what the heck happened.

But every time Thalia comes to town (and the reason why Laurel's husband can't stand her) all hell breaks loose.  The sisters fight.  Thalia plants the suspicion in Laurel's mind that David is cheating, questions are asked about happiness, and some pretty ugly secrets are revealed about Laurel and Thalia's childhood.  Laurel begins to wonder if her life will ever go back to normal.  What is normal anyway?

My thoughts:  As I said before, the beauty in Jackson's novels are her characters.  Every hilarious, quirky detail she adds to build a story or scene or a personality?  It just makes the whole experience personal, intimate and ultimately precious.  Whether it be the design details of Laurel's quilts, or Uncle Poot's creepy amputated ghost foot (you had to be there), Jackson's treasure trove of stuff that you get with every book is something you will stash away in your brain for future pondering. 

I couldn't help but love Laurel, with her insecurities.   Now, about Thalia.  She seems to be a favorite in this story, and I will admit, she was HELL ON WHEELS.  But I had a hard time trusting her.  There were moments when she was so venomous and brutal to her sister, it was scary.  I never quite forgave her for it, even if Laurel did.  On the other hand, if I ever needed someone to come to my defense, Thalia would be at the top of the list. 

The mystery in this story was resolved, but was far from predictable.  Jackson generally gives you fairly happy endings, but never in a way that feels contrived.  You want the best for these characters and it is pleasing to see them get it. 

A word about the audio production:  Well, I already told you, but I'll say it again.  Nobody does narration better than Jackson.  These little beauties are her children, and she pampers them and coddles them and makes sure they are taken care of in a way that few other narrators could manage.  At the end of my audio, there was a short interview with her as well, which just solidified my adoration. 

4.5 out of 5 stars      

  

16 comments:

Kay said...

Well, I see that I must put this author on my read list and maybe start with this one. Interesting that she does her own narration and does it well. I suspect that is rare. And, one might have to read the book to check out Uncle Poot and his foot (Poot? Seriously?). Thanks for the sharing!

Anna said...

I have this book and Backseat Saints, and after reading this review, I really must make time for them. I'm also curious about the ghost foot.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This was my first Jackson book, and while I liked it, I didn't LOVE it like I have LOVED her subsequent books. I have never listened to her narration either which I want to remedy since she now has a new book out!

Zibilee said...

I still haven't read any Jackson, though now I really want to read Gods in Alabama, and I do have a copy of Backseat Saints. It sounds like Jackson does something special with her stories and characters and also like I am missing out by not having had read her work. I am so glad that you liked this one and will have to add it to my list. Great review, as usual, Sandy!

Martha@Hey, I want to read that said...

I don't know how I've missed reading Joshilyn Jackson's book but I've to to remedy this situation. I think I may have to listen to them too. Great review.

Ti said...

I've had this book for at least two years. I won it, and then never got around to it. I am going to dig it out soon.

caite said...

I am reading them all to...it seems right after you! The Girl Who Stopped Swimming is sitting in my TBR pile right now.
Sadly, I can not find them, except for 'gods In Alabama', on audio short of buying them...which is way more expensive than a paperback...

samantha.1020 said...

I really enjoyed this book and this author as well. Gods in Alabama is also my favorite by her but eventually I plan on reading everything that she has written. Great review!

Jen - Devourer of Books said...

I've only read Backseat Saints and I really liked it, I may have to check out her audiobooks. I'm typically skeptical about authors narrating, but if you say she's great that's enough for me.

Jenners said...

I'm with you ... I think Jackson is the perfect narrator for her books. She just has the phrasing and personality to make it really come alive. I was a Thalia fan but yes ... she is a bit unpredictable!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

Thanks for this review, Sandy! I have THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING sitting on my shelf. I loved BACKSEAT SAINTS on audio (narrated by Joshilyn Jackson), perhaps I should look for the audio of SWIMMING (so I get to it sooner)

Julie P. said...

I love Joshilyn Jackson and I still need to read this one. So glad it's going to be a treat!

Jo-Jo said...

Oh, I love Joshilyn Jackson! I listened to both Gods in Alabama and Backseat Saints, but I do have this actual book on my shelf. I had forgotten that I won it before I even listened to the other two! I'm glad to see that you enjoyed it because I am definitely going to try to read this one before the end of summer. P.S. Did you know she has a new one coming out in January?

Melissa said...

I love, love, love this audio. It was one of the first books I listened to, and really one of the books that convinced me that I love audios. Jackson did a great job with the narration and I really need to listen to another one of hers.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Clearly, I am missing out on Joshilyn Jackson - I came *thisclose* to getting Gods in Alabama and ended up going with The Distant Hours on audio. Which I'm totally not regretting, but it just means that I'm definitely going to go with Jackson after I finish Hours. Have I mentioned yet that I'm totally, madly, and completely in love with audio now?

Ελλάδα said...

This is a story of family dynamics and sisters' secrets, and I found it fascinating. The author weaves an intriguing story by giving the reader bits of information along the way that keep you guessing. I will be looking for more books by this author.