Oh Ms. Jackson, how do I love thee? Well, enough that I've listened to every book she has ever written. Enough that I stalwartly refuse to accept free copies of the printed book, and will wait, darn it, for the audio to be released. Enough that when I found out she was attending the UCF Book Festival at the end of this month, I had a litter of kittens.
Well, not really. But you know what I mean. There aren't many authors out there that have captured my mind and my heart like she has. Her books reek of the South, in all its sweaty, kudzu-covered, bug-infested, laugh-to-keep-from-crying kind of glory. But the thing that sets Joshilyn apart from the fray (bear with me if you have heard this from me a dozen times before) is that she strikes the perfect balance between the hopelessness of a situation, rich characters, and humor. Damn this woman is funny, and has such a unique way with words.
No I'm not ready to talk about this book yet. I have more to say. I would never call Joshilyn formulaic. But you can find certain things in each of her books. There is always a mystery of some kind. Secrets that need uncovering. There are always Important Issues being addressed subtly in the story...being raised by someone who can neither hear nor talk, bi-racial relationships, teenage pregnancy, or abusive marriages. And the women. Praise the Lord, she creates some of the most dynamic, butt-kickin', lovable woman characters. People, this is what keeps me coming back for more. So. "A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty".
Synopsis: The Slocum women are living under a curse. Virginia (known as Big) was 15 when she gave birth to Liza. Liza was 15 when she gave birth to Mosey. Now Mosey is about to turn 15, and...well, you can figure it out. Bad things happen every 15 years, so Big is determined to keep Mosey in a bubble, letting nary a boy breathe on her for fear of an unwanted pregnancy.
Life hasn't been easy on any of these three women. There have been no men in the picture for any length of time. Big's parents turned their backs on the entire situation, because of all the scandal. Liza spent years strung out on drugs, hitchhiking across the country with baby Mosey before she came home to get straight, and just recently Liza had a stroke that has rendered her nearly a vegetable. To assist in Liza's rehabilitation, Big decides to install a backyard pool, and thus must uproot the old willow tree to make room. Except when the tree comes out, they discover a little box with the bones of an infant inside.
So where did they come from? Everyone assumes that Liza has something to do with this, but she cannot answer for herself. And if they do belong to Liza, then who is Mosey? In the precious and unforgettable voices of all three women, the truth is slowly revealed.
My thoughts: Well, you already know what I'm going to say. I loved this story to death. For all the reasons that I've already talked about. There is so much strength in the three generations of the Slocum women. They have their issues but there is a fierceness of spirit and a loyalty to each other that is endearing. Jackson pulls this off in her Jacksonish way by giving us the precious details that you don't always find in other Southern fiction. The fact that even though Mosey is a virgin, she pees on pregnancy test sticks when she is stressed, just to be sure. The fact that all of Liza's Narcotics Anonymous pins are lovingly stuck in the trunk of the willow tree. The time that Big dragged Liza to the home of her ex-lover's wife to use their pool for therapy. Jackson gets the quirkiness of the human condition.
The mystery revealed in this story is not one that is all that difficult to figure out, but is never quite the point. It is the journey of Big and Mosey in the discovery of that secret that's going to draw you in. I will warn you, some of the details that unfurl are harsh and hard to read/hear, even sickening and shocking. But there isn't any sugar-coating going on here, which I always respect with Jackson's work.
Even though I love all of Jackson's books, this one ranks right up there with "Gods In Alabama" as my favorite.
A few words about the audio production: The reason why I will only LISTEN to her books, and not read them? Because she narrates them herself - not all authors can successfully pull that off. She delivers her message exactly in the spirit in which it is intended, with her girlish Southern twang and good nature. She is so adept at the business of narrating, in fact, she will soon be recording an audio book other than her own. I think that is pretty special.
5 out of 5 stars