Where I share my love of books with reviews, features, giveaways and memes. Family and needlepoint are thrown in from time to time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ARC Arrival: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson

Publisher: Hachette Book Group

I received this book for review from Valerie at Hachette!

Laurel Gray Hawthorne needs to make things pretty, whether she's helping her mother make sure the literal family skeleton stays in the closet or turning scraps of fabric into nationally acclaimed art quilts. Her estranged sister Thalia, an impoverished Actress with a capital A, is her polar opposite, priding herself on exposing the lurid truth lurking behind middle class niceties. While Laurel's life seems neatly on track--a passionate marriage, a treasured daughter, and a lovely home in suburban Victorianna--everything she holds dear is suddenly thrown into question the night she is visited by the ghost of a her 13-year old neighbor Molly Dufresne. The ghost leads Laurel to the real Molly floating lifelessly in the Hawthorne's backyard pool. Molly's death is inexplicable--an unseemly mystery Laurel knows no one in her whitewashed neighborhood is up to solving. Only her wayward, unpredictable sister is right for the task, but calling in a favor from Thalia is like walking straight into a frying pan protected only by Crisco. Enlisting Thalia's help, Laurel sets out on a life-altering journey that triggers startling revelations about her family's guarded past, the true state of her marriage, and the girl who stopped swimming.

Richer and more rewarding than any story Joshilyn Jackson has yet written, yet still packed with Jackson's trademarked outrageous characters, sparkling dialogue, and defiantly twisting plotting, THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING is destined both to delight Jackson's loyal fans and capture a whole new audience. (description from publisher's website)

About the author: During her trek from a tiny town in Alabama to a university in the big city of Chicago, Arlene Fleet makes a deal with God: If she agrees to never lie, never fornicate again, and never return to that little Alabama town, than God will agree to ensure that a certain corpse is never unearthed. Perhaps this is not the kind of deal to be made by a good southern girl, but Arlene Fleet isn't quite a good southern girl. She is, however, the central character in Joshilyn Jackson's breakthrough debut novel, Gods in Alabama.

Jackson wrote Gods in Alabama after a journey up north of her own. Much like Arlene, she was born in the South, and according to her official biography, "raised by a tribe of wild fundamentalists." Also like Arlene, Jackson eventually moved to Chicago, where she taught English at UIC. However, Arlene is no mere stand-in for the author. Although she is often asked if she based the character upon herself, Jackson is ready to admit that she does not have much in common with the promiscuous girl who may or may not be a murderer. In fact, when Arlene Fleet made her very first appearance in a short story titled "Little Dead Uglies," the narrator makes no bones about loathing her. Nevertheless, Jackson became fascinated with the character. "She wouldn't leave me alone," she explained to readersroom.com. "She's such a TINY part of that story. A few sentences. But every time I would go back to work on that story, she would kinda glitter at me... I KNEW she had a secret, and I knew she was something big, a novel waiting to happen. If only I had known what her secret was."

Jackson explored both the character and that secret in Gods in Alabama, and the results are a playful but dark dose of southern gothic humor. It also became Jackson's first published novel after two previous efforts failed to sell. Gods in Alabama more than makes up for any previous failures, though, as both a commercial and critical success and a No. 1 pick at Booksense.com.

Now Jackson, who is also an accomplished actor and playwright, is offering up her second novel, which once again finds the writer stirring up her southern heritage to create a sort of modern take on the infamous rivalry between the Hatfields and the McCoys. In Between, Georgia, Nonny Frett is caught between to feuding families: the Fretts, the family that provided her with a good southern upbringing after stealing her as a child, and the Crabtrees, the family that lost her and wants revenge. Once again, Jackson has crafted another unique and witty novel. Publishers Weekly has called Between, Georgia a "theatrical and well-paced Southern family drama" with "plenty of Southern sass." Jackson, for one, is quick to ensure those who were delighted by the one-of-a-kind voice that she established in Gods in Alabama that Between, Georgia will not disappoint. "It's a different book, but at the same time, I think it's pretty obvious I wrote it," she told southernlitreview.com. "It's that same odd blend of humor and violence." (from Barnes and Noble)

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
Publication Date: May 2009
ISBN-13: 978-0-446-69782-8
For adults
336 pages

ARC Arrival, Wonderful Wins, and Tome Travelers have taken place of my Mailbox Monday/In Your Mailbox posts.


Tea said...

I have been trying so hard to get a copy of The Girl Who Stopped Swimming. Enjoyed your review.

Becca said...

I have this one on my TBR list, too. By the way, I like your new needlepoint pic in the header. I'm not sure how long you've had it there since I have been horrible about catching up on my blog reading. But wanted you to know just the same!


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