A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty: A Novel
Joshilyn Jackson (Facebook) (Twitter)
Audiobook read by the author
Grand Central Publishing (September 2012), Paperback (ISBN 0446582360 / 9780446582360)
Fiction, 352 pages
Source: purchased audiobook (Audible ASIN B0071H413M)
Reason for reading: personal
Opening lines: “My daughter, Liza, put her heart in a silver box and buried it under the willow tree in our backyard. Or as close to under that tree as she could anyway. The thick web of roots
shunted her off to the side, to the place where the willow’s long fingers trailed down. They swept back and forth across the troubled earth, helping Liza smooth away the dig marks.
It was foolish. There’s no way to hide things underground in Mississippi. Our rich, wet soil turns every winter burial into a spring planting. Over the years Liza’s heart, small and cold and broken as it was, grew into a host of secrets that could ruin us all and cost us Mosey, Liza’s own little girl. I can’t blame Liza, though. She was young and hurt, and she did the best she could.
And after all, I’m the damn fool who went and dug it up.”
Book description, from the publisher’s website:
Fifteen-year-old Mosey Slocumb–spirited, sassy, and on the cusp of womanhood–is shaken when a small grave is unearthed in the backyard, and determined to figure out why it’s there. Liza, her stroke-ravaged mother, is haunted by choices she made as a teenager. But it is Ginny, Mosey’s strong and big-hearted grandmother, whose maternal love braids together the strands of the women’s shared past–and who will stop at nothing to defend their future.
Comments: I haven’t actually read a Joshilyn Jackson novel since her first, gods in Alabama (pre-blog), but I have a couple of them hanging around in TBR Purgatory. However, I recently decided to skip over them in favor of reading her latest, A Grown-up Kind of Pretty, in audiobook, as narrated by Jackson herself.
Jackson is a perfect reader for her own work. Her fiction’s Southern voice is unmistakable, and her southern-accented speaking voice reinforces that. She tells the Slocumb women’s story in three voices–first-person narration alternating between grandmother Ginny and teenage Mosey, with occasional flashback chapters from daughter Liza’s distanced, brain-damaged perspective–and succeeds in giving each a distinctive sound, defining them perhaps more effectively than the writing alone might.
I thought the character I’d relate to most in this novel would be Ginny–we’re in the same age range and both entered motherhood when we were a bit too young for it, although Ginny’s story of early parenthood is a lot more reminiscent of Lorelai Gilmore’s–but frankly, there were times she irritated me. I really enjoyed her granddaughter Mosey, though, a convincing and endearing teenager. But all that said, the plot of A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty hooked me more than the characters. Long-buried secrets seem to be a staple in Jackson’s fiction, and she’s come up with some good ones here, with twists that I wasn’t able to anticipate. While I felt that the story eventually took a few turns into cliché Southern-melodrama territory, for the most part I enjoyed the ride–which seems an appropriate thing to say about a book I “read” on my daily commute.