Monday, August 14, 2017

Joshilyn Jackson's Latest and Greatest




Psst. Here’s a secret. I don’t come to a Joshilyn Jackson book for its plot, though there’s always plenty of that. I come for the author’s voice. I come for her plucky characters that are so real, I feel as if I might turn my head at a stoplight and find them winking at me from the next car over.

I come to revel in the way Jackson takes the 26 letters of the alphabet and strings together words that vary from juicy, colorful, or frail, to sharp, witty, or lyrical. Sometimes her words are saucy and other times they’re words she creates herself. (Sometimes even both.) Jackson’s writing often reminds me of critically acclaimed T.C. Boyle. Each author has prose so original you don’t read it as much as you chew it. And I love the way it tastes. 

THE ALMOST SISTERS is my favorite Joshilyn Jackson novel to date. It’s brilliantly simple in conception: everyone has an origin story. No matter if it’s a comic book hero like Batman or an old woman rocking on her porch in small town Bama.

While the novel is not strictly a multi-period piece, the characters’ pasts smolder beneath every breath, threatening to spew out any minute. There’s Leia’s one-night stand that leaves her carrying the child she almost didn’t know she wanted. There’s her goody-goody stepsister, Rachel, whose marriage has just imploded (her marriage, that is, with JJ—I mean Jake—who’s got a hush-hush history with Leia). Then there’s Southern matriarch, Birchie, and her bestie, Miss Wattie . . . who together have somethin’ hidden in a locked attic trunk.

     Indeed, I can always count on Jackson’s stories to bring big-time conflict. And where there’s conflict, I know that when her protagonist finally releases a piece of her mind, the stinging, digging, cathartic, and ass-kicking bitch-session may go on for a full delicious page or longer (while in the back of my brain, I’m rooting, “You go, girl!”).

     THE ALMOST SISTERS is the kind of novel that once you close the cover, you close your eyes as well. You let the story’s themesthemes which are uncomfortable illuminations arising from the characters and plot (yup, the same plot you hadn’t thought you'd come for in the first place)sink in and in and in.

     I’ll not forget this book’s characters. I’ll not forget the connections Jackson makes with the origin story that we all in today’s society share.


POSTSCRIPT:  At Joshilyn Jackson’s recent book launch party for THE ALMOST SISTERS, she revealed to a standing-room-only crowd how her earlier books have drawn inspiration from her mother’s side of her family. With her latest release, Jackson scoured the memories of her paternal ancestors’ past. If she does so again with her next novel, readers are promised another bold, un-put-downable read! Pictured here, I’m the one wearing glasses, standing in back beside the author (who’s got on glasses and a green scarf)—alongside other loyal fans from her novel workshop earlier this year in Decatur, Georgia.

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