Once again, with her third novel, the fabulous Joshilyn Jackson has not let me down. Jackson, a Southern U.S. writer (and amazingly funny blogger, at Faster than Kudzu), is the perfect balance between a literary and popular writer — her prose is thoughtful and beautifully crafted, but it never gets in the way of the story and characters that keep you turning pages till the end.
Once again, Jackson returns to the world of what some people describe as “Southern Gothic” — a mysterious death in a Florida suburb, which leads to the unveiling of buried family secrets and further acts of violence and desperation. But her home territory as a novelist is not just the South, but the geography of family relationships — the bonds that unite and sometimes divide mother and daughter, sister and sister, husband and wife.
Jackson’s main character, Laurel, is in every way a contrast to her sister Thalia. Both women are artists — Laurel makes prizewinning art quilts, while Thalia is an actress and theatre owner. There the similarity ends: Thalia despises the safe and domestic nature of Laurel’s art, while Laurel can’t understand Thalia’s unconventional, exhibitionist performances (which include semi-naked pole-dancing during a role as Nora in A Doll’s House). Thalia wants to root Laurel out of her comfortable upper-middle class life as a stay-at-home mom married to a good but unexciting man. Laurel just wants to keep everything safe, secure and comfortable without rooting around too much under the surface — so it pays to keep Thalia at arms’ length. But when a girl drowns in Laurel’s backyard swimming pool, it’s to Thalia that she instinctively reaches out, as the one person who can help her understand the strange, the hidden, and the chaotic.
I literally could not put this book down. My only complaint with Joshilyn Jackson is that she doesn’t write fast enough, because I want another new book by her TOMORROW.