Publication Date: 2008
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge #23, The Southern Reading Challenge #1
I loved Joshilyn Jackson’s first two books, but for some reason this one hadn’t worked its way up to the top of my TBR list until I decided to include it for this year’s Southern Reading Challenge. Jackson is from Alabama and definitely has a talent for writing southern characters that can be outrageous and touch your heart at the same time.
While this book was an enjoyable read, it just didn’t grab me quite as much as her first two books did. Maybe it was because the setting was primarily in an affluent suburban area in Florida. While there were parts of the story that took place in smaller, less urban places that sang with the kind of uniqueness that I’m used to from Jackson, it just didn’t feel like the book took me to such a sense of ‘place’ as her others.
Laurel Hawthorne lives with her husband and daughter Shelby in an gated community in Florida. When Laurel is awakened one night by the ghost of a young girl, she discovers that girl’s body in her backyard swimming pool. With her world thrown into a tailspin, Laurel finds herself reaching out for stability and reassurance to her workaholic husband, her troubled daughter, and her headstrong and wild sister Thalia. Laurel tries to protect Shelby from the investigation just as she’s tried to protect both Shelby and her husband from her own past. Laurel’s family ties to a backwoods Alabama community of DeLop and a long held family secret are only parts of what is threatening the stability of Laurel’s world. Thalia seems to want to make Laurel face her troubles, but at the same time seems to be going about it all wrong.
There was a lot going on in this book. Two mysterious deaths, family issues between sisters as well as mothers and daughters and spouses. Although the focus of the story was on Laurel and her sister Thalia, there were so many other elements that it ended up feeling a bit unfocused to me. All in all, I liked it, but I’d recommend “gods in Alabama” and “Between, Georgia” before this one.