Saturday, March 29, 2008

Pg. 69: "The Girl Who Stopped Swimming"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Laurel Gray Hawthorne hasn't seen a ghost in the thirteen years she and her husband have lived in the beautiful gated neighborhood of Victorianna. Keeping her head down, she's managed to make a good life for her beloved daughter and husband while working on her nationally acclaimed art quilts. But in the dog days of a Florida August, she wakes to find a dead girl standing by her bed. It's the ghost of her daughter's best friend, Molly, who leads the way to her own small body, floating lifelessly in the Hawthornes' backyard pool. Now, with police on her lawn and neighbors peeking over the fence, Laurel's carefully constructed existence cracks, and her past seeps through.

Laurel and her sister, Thalia, grew up in what appears to be a typical blue-collar home, but the Grays have long been hiding a very literal skeleton in their closet. While Laurel built her pretty, pleasing life in the suburbs, Thalia became an actress with a capital A, about as unconventional as they come. She's the walking definition of mess, and no longer fits in Laurel's tidy world. Yet Molly can't rest until someone learns her secrets, and she has opened a door to the past that Laurel can't close alone. She turns to her wild and estranged sister, though asking for Thalia's help is like jumping into a hot frying pan protected only by a thin layer of Crisco. Together they set out on a life-altering journey that will reveal their family's buried history, the true state of Laurel's perfect marriage, and what really happened to the girl who stopped swimming.
Among the early praise for the novel:
"Jackson matches effortless Southern storytelling with a keen eye for character and heart-stopping circumstances... What makes this novel shine are its revelations about the dark side of Southern society and Thalia and Laurel's finely honed relationship, which shows just how much thicker blood is than water."
--Publishers Weekly

"On the heels of the successful gods in Alabama and Between, Georgia - both #1 BookSense picks - Jackson again reinvents the GRITS (Girls Raised in the South) novel. Quilt artist Laurel, her game programmer husband, David, and their 13-year-old daughter, Shelby, lead a seemingly charmed life in a serene Florida suburb. But when the ghost of a drowned girl awakens Laurel, the veneer of that life seems ready to crack beyond repair. Can Laurel trust her flamboyant, outspoken sister, Thalia, to help as old family secrets emerge with dizzying speed? With the appearance of a ghost on the first page, you'll feel compelled to race to the end, but slow down for Jackson's great descriptions - you'll be rewarded for the effort. Jackson illuminates not just the complexities of family love as a source of safety and support but also the complexities of danger and death. The life-affirming epilog provides satisfying closure; libraries will want to own all three novels."
--Library Journal

"Joshilyn Jackson has done it again. With a storyteller's easy grace, she whisks readers between bourgeois Victorianna, where dirty laundry and family drunks are secured firmly behind a Sunbonnet Sue exterior, and the unfathomable poverty of DeLop, a town of single-wides, chained pitbulls and no way out - unless you're willing to sacrifice your very soul. Nothing is quite as it seems, and Jackson's skilful unraveling of family secrets and betrayal left me breathless. You must read this book!"
-- Sara Gruen, NYT Bestselling author of Water for Elephants and Riding Lessons

"In The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, Joshilyn Jackson tells a mysterious, mournful story, and adds to what is shaping up as her great strength as a novelist: a deep, empathetic understanding of the impoverished (in both the earthly and in spirit), and a genius for unveiling the complexities of the South. Even in a page-turner like this, where the 'who' and the 'how' compel the book and fascinate the reader, she never fails to be humane, or to turn a kind eye toward every condition."
--Haven Kimmel Author of The Solace of Leaving Early, A Girl Named Zippy, and The Used World

"Do you crave a novel that will cause you to skip work or miss meals or put off sleep in order to keep reading it? In that case, you will definitely want to get hold of Joshilyn Jackson's latest. The Girl Who Stopped Swimming is lushly southern, and just darn good story-telling. Laurel is one of the best characters to come out of a modern novel in a very long time. In fact, she's one of the best characters to come from anywhere in what seems forever! Joshilyn had me from the moment the drowned girl walked into Laurel's bedroom which, by the way, was in the first sentence!"
--Homer Hickam, author of October Sky and The Far Reaches
Read excerpts from The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, and learn more about the author and her books at Joshilyn Jackson's website.

Joshilyn Jackson's short fiction has been published in literary magazines and anthologies including TriQuarterly and Calyx, and her plays have been produced in Atlanta and Chicago. Her bestselling debut novel, gods in Alabama won SIBA's 2005 Novel of the year Award and was a #1 BookSense pick. Her second book, Between, Georgia, was also a #1 BookSense pick.

The Page 69 Test: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming.

--Marshal Zeringue