Joshilyn Jackson,
Between, Georgia
(Hachette, 2006)

Imagine small-town life in rural Georgia where the two main families in town are always at each other's throats for one reason or another. Imagine the matriarchs of these two families are something like Thelma from Mama's Family (the television show from the 1980s) except one of them has a drinking problem. Imagine having two mothers -- one from each of these families. (That would be one biological mother and one adoptive mother for those who are confused.) If the mother who raised you was blind and deaf, and you grew up in the town Joshilyn Jackson titled her second novel, Between, Georgia, then your name is probably Nonny Frett.

Nonny's birth mother, a Crabtree, was only 15 the night she snuck over to the "enemy" to have and give up her baby girl. In fact, it wasn't until that child was 3 that the Crabtree clan found out the Fretts "stole" one of their own. If the feud wasn't already bad enough, it only got worse from this point. You see, the Fretts are a pretentious lot who think they are above everybody else in town, while the Crabtrees are the epitome of Southern white trash. Nonny has done her best over the years to head off the battle of the clans, but now, when she is 30, the war might be reaching its worst level yet.

It probably does not help that Nonny is a little distracted trying to get a divorce from her cheating husband with whom she can't quit having sex. Her overbearing aunt Bernise (on the Frett side) -- who happens to know how everybody should live their lives -- is raising her granddaughter, Fisher. It just so happens Nonny would like to raise Fisher a little differently than Bernise. For one who knows everything, Bernise's daughter turned out quite a mess! Nonny doesn't want that for Fisher. Nonny's adoptive mom, Stacia, has Usher's syndrome, meaning she is blind and deaf, but not stupid nor unobservant. Still, Nonny feels she must always be there for her mother who only has a twin sister and Nonny to communicate through.

When Nonny's biological grandmother Ona's vicious Doberman dogs get out of their enclosure and attack Nonny's adoptive aunt, the war is on. Despite her attempts at brokering a lasting peace, the hatred between the Crabtrees and Fretts will reach an all-time high. Can Nonny render aid to the wounded, calm out-of-control egos and restore balance to this community before someone really gets hurt? If you are born in to one family, but raised by another, to which are you loyal? Let us just say that Nonny is not in an enviable position!

Generally, when an author reads her own audiobook, I am not overly impressed. Yes, she knows the writing better than anyone else, but narrative and speaking parts might not be her forte. I was, therefore, surprised to find Jackson to be quite a good reader. In fact, I thought that for an author, she had better acting skills than some actors turned readers I have experienced on other audiobooks. It wasn't until after I finished Between, Georgia that I read the back of the box and learned Joshilyn, who lives outside Atlanta, Ga., is a former actor and English teacher. Go figure!

Between, Georgia is definitely "chicklit." And yeah, I am a guy, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I felt the pain of losing a child. I empathized with the frustration of dealing with family and friends. Yet, I found myself chuckling so much that I can only categorize this book as a "dramedy." The scenes with Nonny's not-quite-ex-husband's fiance will have you rolling on the floor.

Jackson is an excellent writer when it comes to this type of fiction. She is equally impressive as a narrator. She has my respect for not butchering her book by abridging it. Finally, I will probably be the first guy to admit I am looking forward to her third novel, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming.

[ visit the author's website ]

review by
Wil Owen

17 May 2008

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