Friday, March 23, 2012

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson — Audiobook Review

Recorded by Hachette Audio
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.

26 comments:

Mary (Bookfan) said...

Fabulous review. I was on the fence about whether to read or listen. I think I'll go for the audio. She's one of my favorite authors!

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I really need to read this one! I'm three books into Jackson's work, and I feel like each one makes me appreciate and enjoy her even more than the last. And OMG I cannot WAIT to hear her speak at UCF.

bermudaonion said...

I knew you'd love this book! I haven't experienced Jackson on audio yet, but she narrates all but Gods in Alabama.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I can't wait to read this one! Or listen - haven't decided. But I love her voice; I just might have to get the audio!

Ti said...

I don't know how you have such time to write such beautiful reviews!

I have no experience with this author but I know from what Sandy has said that she chooses to read for her own audio books and I guess she does a pretty decent job because everyone always raves about her books!

Harvee said...

I'd love to listen to this book - for the author's volice and the story. Thanks for introducing a new writer to me!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Well, you'll just have to gush louder than me because I will be right there with you on that count. I think she has it all going for her...she writes beautifully and Southern, and she is funny but also has a way of making a chill run up your spine a time or two. There isn't anyone out there quite like her.

Anita said...

I am reading now and will finish soon.

Nymeth said...

How exciting that you'll get to see the author! You'll make an adorable nerdy fangirl for sure :D

Suko said...

Excellent review! This does sound captivating. I'm sure you will enjoy hearing this author speak at the UCF Book Festival.

Lisa said...

I love, love when the author narrates their own book. You get exactly the inflection and tone the author wanted in every sentence.

Aarti said...

Oh, I love the way you describe the book as "flexing and contracting." That's so evocative. I am so glad you enjoyed this book as much as you did. I hope it helped take you away from your troubles for a little while :-)

Jenny said...

Wow, a favorite of the year! I really need to read this one! I've read two of her books but they were so long ago that I only remember a little. =/

Alison's Book Marks said...

The cover stopped me in my tracks, but I'm so happy to learn that what is underneath is just as striking. Great review...it's on my list!

Athira said...

I can't wait to try Jackson's books! I've been hearing so much about them! This one also sounds fabulous and intriguing! I love the way you have described this book! I will definitely be looking out for it.

Trisha said...

I still haven't read a Jackson. Bad me.

Jenners said...

Isn't she a fabulous narrator for her own books? I look forward to listening to this one. It sounds like one that will make me want to take longer walks.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

Ok, I'm sold...adding this one to the WishList :)

Vasilly said...

Why, H, of course I want to read this now! It sounds amazing. Jackson sounds like an author who's incapable of writing a bad book.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

Oh, it sounds amazing! It had been recommended to me a few weeks ago but I hadn't read such a detailed review of it yet. Some of the themes seem very dark but it is well balanced, I don't mind it, on the contrary. Great review!

reviewsbylola said...

Joshilyn Jackson is one of those authors I see around the blogosphere a lot but I haven't read any of her books. Great review!

Marie said...

I need to read this. I loved her last book so much! Thanks for the great review :-)

Darlene said...

I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this one. I have it and can't wait to read it!

Meg said...

Oh, I want to read this one so bad! I love Jackson's stories and have devoured her entire backlist. After listening to one on audio, I decided I wouldn't want to "read" another one; she is such a wonderful narrator, and her books are a joy to hear. Can't wait to get my hands on this one -- hopefully soon!

Amy said...

Oh wow, Heather, I have got to read Ms. Jackson's books...or listen to them. I already adore these 3 women and I haven't even held the book. Your review, despite some difficult themes, makes me want to read the story of these women to find out what happens to them all, whose body was under the tree, if Lisa improves at all and who is the man Big cannot forget.

A beautiful review, thank you!

Stacy at A Novel Source said...

love this review and Joshilyn Jackson is up there in my ranking of fave authors (doesn't hurt that she's from my home state GA & that she's cool beans from every appearance/talk/signing I've ever had the pleasure of seeing her at) I haven't had the opportunity to read this one yet and based on your review, I think i'll just download the audio! thanks Heather!

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