It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Joshilyn Jackson — not just of her fabulous debut novel gods in Alabama but also of her blog, one of the wittiest spots in cyberspace. Her second novel, Between, Georgia, is just one more reason to love this Southern writer who combines sass and sweetness in the perfect proportion.Jackson’s writing is wickedly funny and perceptive, and imbued with a strong sense of place. Writers from the Southern United States seem to have that same ability to immortalize their region in fiction that we here in Newfoundland value in our writers, so I’m in awe of the way Jackson brings a small Georgia town and its characters to life. At the centre of the story is Nonny Frett, caught in a family feud between her two very different families and the powerful matriarchs at the head of each. Nonny’s caught “in-between” in her own life as well, unable to step forward to make the decisions she knows she has to make. In the course of the novel, the feud erupts into all-out war, and in the midst of battle Nonny finds within herself the resources to take charge of her own life.
While this novel lacks the darker edge that made gods in Alabama so compelling, it offers more than enough to engage and delight any reader who enjoys a smart, funny, heartwarming contemporary novel. Jackson’s characterization is deft and insightful, even with the most minor characters. Here, for example, is a sentence describing a character who mkaes a half-page appearance in the novel:
“His name was Danny, but he had recently joined a band and was trying to make everyone call him Banger.”
One sentence tells us all we’ll ever need to know about Banger; Jackson’s touch is virtually always this sure.
Between, Georgia is also, to me, a profoundly spiritual novel, just as gods in Alabama was. Mind you, it contains plenty of “mature language and situations” and certainly wouldn’ t make the shelves of most Christian bookstores, but at its heart this novel has the same theme gods had, the theme that resonates with me more than any other: Grace happens. In unexpected places and through unexpected channels, but grace happens. Even in Between, Georgia.