I must confess–I have a huge crush on Joshilyn Jackson. Not in a romantic way, but more in a ‘I love the way your mind works and the way you talk and how we have so much in common that we should totally be best friends’ kind of way. I blame it on the audiobooks. I mean, all her books are great, but there’s just something about the way she reads them that pulls you into the world of her novels and makes you feel a part of it. I highly, highly recommend listening to them, even if you’ve already read the paper versions.
I just recently finished A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, her latest novel, and I fell just as much in love with it as the previous ones. The story centers around a trio of women (well, two women and a teenage girl) that make up three generations of a family: Big, Liza, and Mosey. The women take turns narrating the story, so you get shifting points of view of the story based on who’s ‘speaking’ in a particular chapter.
Jenny Slocumb, aka Big, is from a small town in Mississippi and got pregnant at the tender age of 15. She goes on to give birth to Liza, who has her own baby at 15. It would seem to be Mosey’s turn, 15 years later, except that Mosey is a virgin and doesn’t even have a boyfriend (her best friend Roger doesn’t count). She has absorbed enough life lessons from her mom and grandmother to know that sex=trouble, and they are determined to keep Mosey from following in their footsteps.
But it’s a “trouble year”, and if it isn’t Mosey turning up pregnant, some other kind of trouble is ready to rear its head. When Big decides to cut down the willow tree in her backyard and an old grave is discovered, it seems that this trouble year is determined to outdo all the previous ones, leading Big, Liza, and Mosey to seek out the truth in their own ways, never knowing if the answers they find will bring them closer together or tear them apart.
As usual, I loved Jackson’s writing. She has a way with language that is witty and playful and so original. The characters of the three women are all memorable in their own way, although I had a particular fondness for Jenny. Her history, her strength, and the sweetness of her love story were all so compelling. Liza has had a stroke and so must have been a difficult character to write, but the way Jackson details her mind, as she moves between awareness of the real world and her own inner sea of thoughts and memories, is well done. Mosey is a believable teenager and the way she interacts with her friends (particularly her text-speak conversations with Roger) is hilarious. She also shows so clearly the influence of the two women who have raised her, each so different but both so nurturing in their own way.
This was probably my second favorite Jackson novel, after Gods in Alabama, but they are all wonderful and worth reading. And don’t forget to try them on audio, as Jackson’s narration is warm, funny, and, really, because who can read a story better than the author herself?
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