Since his award-winning debut collection of stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men , Brad Watson has been expanding the literary traditions of the South, in work as melancholy, witty, strange, and lovely as any in America.
Now, drawing on the story of his own great-aunt, Watson explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural, early-twentieth-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that would stand in the way of the central "uses" for a woman in that time and place: sex and marriage.Read more...
Since his award-winning debut collection of stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men, Brad Watson has been expanding the literary traditions of the South, in work as melancholy, witty, strange, and lovely as any in America.
Now, drawing on the story of his own great-aunt, Watson explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural, early-twentieth-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that would stand in the way of the central "uses" for a woman in that time and place: sex and marriage. From the highly erotic world of nature around her to the hard tactile labor of farm life, from the country doctor who befriends her to the boy who loved but was forced to leave her, Miss Jane Chisolm and her world are anything but barren.
The potency and implacable cruelty of nature, as well as its beauty, is a trademark of Watson's fiction. In Miss Jane, the author brings to life a hard, unromantic past that is tinged with the sadness of unattainable loves, yet shot through with a transcendent beauty. Jane Chisolm's irrepressible vitality and generous spirit give her the strength to live her life as she pleases in spite of the limitations that others, and her own body, would place on her. Free to satisfy only herself, she mesmerizes those around her, exerting an unearthly fascination that lives beyond her still.
Book clubs: Dollars and sense
Lionel Shriver looks to the future—2029, to be exact—in the smart, insightful The Mandibles, a novel that chronicles the catastrophic effects of a global financial crisis. At the center of the novel is the Mandible clan, who await the inheritance that’s due to come their way once Douglas, the head of the family, dies. When the U.S. economy tanks, due in part to a massive cyberattack, the Mandibles lose their fortune and are forced to give up their affluent lifestyles. The ways in which each member of the family reacts to the loss make for a fascinating narrative. Douglas and his wife, Luella, leave their retirement digs and move in with their son. Daughter Avery and her professor-husband begin living with Avery’s charitable sister, Florence. All are forced to rethink their lives and reconsider old relationships. Shriver presents a chilling account of a country undone by disaster, but she balances the grim proceedings with humor and intelligence.
A SOLITARY LIFE
Brad Watson explores the nature of physical and spiritual love in his acclaimed novel Miss Jane. Set in Mississippi in the early 1900s, the novel tells the story of Jane Chisolm, who is born with a rare disorder of the reproductive system. With an alcoholic father and distant mother offering little in the way of family life, Jane is looked after by her sister, Grace, and by kindhearted Eldred Thompson, a doctor who offers her compassion and understanding. Although Jane’s condition sets her apart, she comes to know love, after a fashion, and the farm where she grows up provides a natural backdrop that’s marvelously alive. Inspired by the life of Watson’s great-aunt, the narrative offers a richly detailed portrait of the rural South. Watson’s bare-bones prose style is arresting, and his portrayal of Jane’s inner life is complex and authentic. Longlisted for the National Book Award, this rewarding novel is sure to be a book club favorite.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
A finalist for the National Book Award, Paulette Jiles’ mesmerizing novel News of the World is a beautifully rendered tale of the Old West that focuses on Johanna Leonberger, a 10-year-old who’s been taken captive by Kiowa raiders. Johanna’s parents and sister were killed by the Kiowa, and she has lived among them since the age of 6. When Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd—a 70-year-old war veteran—comes to take her to live with relatives near San Antonio, Johanna, who has forgotten how to speak English, is frightened and reluctant to go. Their journey home makes for remarkable reading. Along the way, the contradictory twosome smooth out the rough edges of their relationship and develop an unexpected rapport. Jiles writes beautifully about Texas in the late 1870s, using poetic prose to tell a timeless story. Named the top book of 2016 by the editors of BookPage and slated for a film adaptation starring Tom Hanks, News of the World is a must-read for lovers of historical fiction.