Narrated by Joshilyn Jackson
Length: 12 hours 25 minutes
The three generations of Slocumb women living in one home have an awareness that something is coming. You see, every fifteen years, fate intervenes in the lives of this family and comes to change their situation. Big, the matriarch of the bunch, was pregnant with Liza at 15 and is now caring for her daughter after a stroke has left her severely disabled. Liza was also pregnant at 15 with Mosey, who is now 15 and is navigating the difficulties of adolescence. When Big decides to put in a pool to aid in Liza’s recovery, the big willow in the back yard must be removed, and when it is, a shocking secret is unearthed. It seems there was a body buried under the tree, and now that 15 year curse is here to raise its ugly head again. While Mosey is off investigating what these long-buried bones may mean for her future, Big is just trying to keep it all together for her girls; a situation that’s complicated by the man she can’t forget. Meanwhile, in the recesses of the silent Liza’s mind, the events that brought her to this state and the sins that she can’t forget play a constant movie in her head. It’s a story of extreme brokenness and healing, blame and forgiveness, and ultimately, the power, strength and love of two mothers who will never give up, no matter what the circumstances are.
This is my second experience listening to a Joshilyn Jackson book, and I was very excited to see that this book was narrated by the author herself! Jackson’s voice was rich with a cadence of compassion and gentleness that had me completely enraptured. I never wanted to stop listening and grew deeply involved with both the tenderness and the wonder of the tale I was being told. It was a story that had some very stomach-twisting aspects and there was real tension in the way that it was portrayed, but against the harsh realities, there was a gracious and benevolent humor as well. I have to say that although I’m far from an aficionado of Jackson’s work, this book was my favorite so far.
This book was told from the viewpoint of all three Slocumb women, in chapters that wove their shared tale together with elegance and precision. While Liza’s sections were more ethereal and dreamlike, Big’s were more resonant and emotional. Mosey’s sections were mostly just flat out funny, and these three very distinct and different narrative voices lent a very well rounded and fluid feel to the book. Each character had different agendas and ideas, but all of them evinced growth of both a personal and emotional nature, and it was how they all reacted to the same incidents in very different ways that really highlighted Jackson’s skill in telling this very dramatic story.
There were aspects to this story that made my skin crawl. Child abuse, addiction and revenge were peppered throughout the narrative in a way that made it virtually impossible to stop listening. And that’s the thing that I admired most: Jackson had the ability to be both brutal and loving in equal measures, and in a way, these two attributes balanced each other beautifully. It wasn’t always an easy story to hear, but it felt so real and so immediate that it was hard not to sit and listen for hours. I found the storytelling natural and dynamic, and though there were definitely some darker pieces to the pastiche, it was captivating in a way that I admired and relished.
As the story flexes and contracts, the mysteries of the plot are deliciously revealed and each of the women must learn to put the past behind them and struggle towards the future, despite the hurts inflicted and the pain endured. It means starting over for all of them, but in their desire to be free of the past they must give up long held beliefs and plan new strategies for the life that awaits them. They are all imperfect people, but in the end, they learn that their imperfections are the glue that holds them together and that they are each a piece of a larger puzzle that they will do anything to hold onto. It was inspiring to read about their love and commitment for each other, and while at times I shuddered, I also laughed and commiserated with them. The Slocumb women were a force to be reckoned with.
This was a tale that was not only inventive and unique, but one that keep me on the edge of my seat with its tenuous storyline and adept characterizations. If you haven’t read anything by Joshilyn Jackson, I would recommend that you grab this book post-haste! I’m looking forward to hearing Ms. Jackson speak at the upcoming UCF Book Festival, and I have a feeling I’m going to be the nerdy little fangirl, eagerly gushing about how great I find her work. This was a beautiful Southern story told with aplomb and it will probably go down as one of my favorite reads of the year. Highly recommended for all types of readers.