Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Southern Reading Challenge, Book 1: Between, Georgia

Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson
Rating: 4 stars

This book was nothing at all like I expected. I don't know why, but I was thinking it would be fairly standard chick lit with a Southern twang. But it's definitely more than that. (There's actually more to it than I can include here, but I'll give you the gist.)

Nonny Frett is truly a native of the tiny town of Between, Georgia because she's caught between two families and two lives. She was born to the unwed, unstable Hazel Crabtree but deaf/almost blind Stacia Frett knew she was Nonny's mother as soon as she came into the world (in the middle of her sister's living room). The Crabtrees and Fretts have a long-standing feud and Nonny is caught right in the middle. She's raised by Stacia and her sisters - Stacia's fraternal twin, the nervous, sweet Genny and the steam-rolling, brash Bernese. Nonny learns sign language before she can speak and loves her mother wholeheartedly. But her biological grandmother, Ona - "half-crazy, all mean, perpetually drunk" - wants her to be a Crabtree. Nonny is red-headed and freckled like the Crabtrees and sometimes has their temper, but she feels more like a meticulous Frett. The Frett-Crabtree feud is at the heart of the novel - it causes some terrible events that change Nonny's way of thinking about her life and her family.

Nonny is also caught between her own life in Athens, GA where she works as an ASL translator and the need to come home on weekends and look after her now deaf-blind mother (not that Stacia needs much help, she's pretty amazing) and the fluttery, self-harming Genny. She's been trying to get divorced from her cheating, laid-back musician husband Jonno for a year now but she keeps putting it off and she keeps sleeping with him.

Jackson writes, there's "no such thing as a town smaller than Between" and it certainly seems that way - most of the action in the town happens in the town square, with its fountain and flowerbeds, surrounded by a few businesses in Victorian buildings - a B&B, a diner, a bookstore, the Baptist church, and Bernese's rather creey, roadside-attraction-like Dollhouse Museum where she combines displays of Stacia's famous porcelain dolls with her own obsession - butterfly farming. Right across from the square the quaintness ends - there lies the Crabtrees' squalid gas station/parts yard, complete with 3 vicious Dobermans.

I enjoyed this novel. Being adopted, I was really interested in the nature vs. nurture parts of Nonny's personality, particularly since she knew exactly where they both came from, which is rare. Stacia, as I said, is amazing - despite her lack of sight and hearing, she's the most level-headed of the sisters and the most eloquent, even though she can't speak. Her relationship with Nonny was one of the strongest, best-written mother-daughter relationships I've read about in quite a while. And there are other quirky Betweenians to enjoy, as well.


Dewey said...

So as an adopted person, do you believe more in nature or nurture? I've always felt that both have to have an effect, but although I am not adopted, I'm so unlike my parents that sometimes I just don't know what to think!

tinylittlelibrarian said...

I believe in both. I can definitely see that in some ways I'm fulfilling the stereotype of turning into my mother! And being married to someone who had a very different upbringing from me, I'm sure that my upbringing had a lot to do with the way I look at the world.

But then there are things about me, like being able to sing, that are obviously nature because neither of my parents can carry a tune in a bucket. :)

Unknown said...

I love Joss. She is so much fun. I can't wait for her third book to come out, b/c she always comes here for a signing and I get to go out for drinks with her. TOO much fun.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Madame Rubies - What fun! I'm envious. I definitely have to read Gods in Alabama, too, now that I've found her.