Astonishing prose brings to life a forgotten woman and a lost world in a strange and bittersweet Southern pastoral.
Since his award-winning debut collection of stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men, Brad Watson has been expanding the literary traditions of the South, in work as melancholy, witty, strange, and lovely as any in America.
Now, drawing on the story of his own great-aunt, Watson explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural, early-twentieth-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that would stand in the way of the central "uses" for a woman in that time and place: sex and marriage. From the highly erotic world of nature around her to the hard tactile labor of farm life, from the country doctor who befriends her to the boy who loved but was forced to leave her, Miss Jane Chisolm and her world are anything but barren.
The potency and implacable cruelty of nature, as well as its beauty, is a trademark of Watson’s fiction. In Miss Jane, the author brings to life a hard, unromantic past that is tinged with the sadness of unattainable loves, yet shot through with a transcendent beauty. Jane Chisolm’s irrepressible vitality and generous spirit give her the strength to live her life as she pleases in spite of the limitations that others, and her own body, would place on her. Free to satisfy only herself, she mesmerizes those around her, exerting an unearthly fascination that lives beyond her still.
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It was not what I was expecting at all. In fact, I even had my doubts, as I often do when a man writes from a woman's point of view. But Brad Watson surprised me on all accounts. This novel worked on so many levels.
Based on the life of one of his distant relatives, he was able to write a tale so vivid, so emotional, so heart-wrenching, that at times it left me stunned. The main character is Jane Chisholm who is born with a defect. The author teases the reader by revealing tidbits of information pertaining to this rare defect little by little throughout the story. This kept me flipping pages because I needed to understand what this deformity was.
The secondary characters who must deal with Jane have varying reactions to her - protectiveness, fear, love, and even abhorrance. Above all, it was Jane's innocence, her abiding inner strength, and genuine heart that fascinates and makes this book rise over others. And all this is set in rural and poor Mississippi in the early 1900's where life was never easy.
This totally engrossing novel will keep book clubs talking for hours and hours because of its complexity, likeability, and the birth defect. Beautiful and poignant. I loved it.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.