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May 20, 2024

Review in Haiku: Between, Georgia

By Katrina Stonoff

Two families feud,
battle for girl caught
Can she bring them peace?

Yes, I realize Between, Georgia was never on my nightstand. But I've been following Joshilyn Jackson for a couple of years now, eagerly awaiting this novel. So the day it was available, I ordered it. When it arrived, I put aside the book I was in the middle of and swallowed it up in two days.

I worry about sophomore slump with authors I love. When a debut novel is such a breath of fresh air, like Jackson's Gods in Alabama was, and especially when it's also a critical and commercial success, I worry about the author (and her editor and publisher) moving the next book too quickly into production. Releasing it before it's ready.

I loved Gods. I started reading Faster Than Kudzu, about two years ago -- that is, Joshilyn's blog (sorry, I just cannot call her Jackson; she feels like a personal friend, though I've never met her or even exchanged personal e-mail). At that time, Gods had been sold, but its future was still unknown. I lived vicariously through Joshilyn as she visited her printer and met the staff, saw the cover for the first time, returned galley proofs, and eventually began gathering reviews (all positive, near as I could tell). By the time I actually held a copy, it was an old, old friend, and I couldn't wait to ... as Joss might say ... kiss it on the mouth.

I ate it up, like an almond croissant. Then I carried it around (so to speak), showing it to everyone I ran into. I know for certain three copies sold directly from my talking it up, and I'm responsible for another five fans who either read it from borrowed copies or from the library (one of my friends couldn't afford a copy, and her library didn't have one available, so she read it over several long visits to the bookstore). I even hand-sold it to my indy bookseller, who now hand-sells the paperback edition to customers. Yeah, I liked it.

So I was terribly afraid Between would be disappointing. It didn't have the knock-you-out first line Gods had, and it didn't sound riotously, shockingly funny like Gods, and how could a second book be any good if it's released a scant 15 months later anyway?

No worries. I was in my indy bookstore today, and the owner asked, "Which did you like better?"

"This one." I pointed to Between without hesitation (well, without much hesitation). He's been on the receiving end of my gushing more than once, so he was understandably surprised.

But Between is exquisite. The tone is less edgy than Gods, perhaps, and less prone to inspire bursts of overloud laughter, but it's full of joyful, delightful and yes, hilarious scenes.

Nonny Frett is someone you want for a best friend (and you want to take care of her, and keep all the bad things away from her, which is probably really neurotic, but we won't worry about that since she's fictional, after all, so there's no fear of truly enabling her). From the opening scene, where Nonny is born (where she "frolicked bloodlessly into the world attended by singing rabbits" according to one, very innocent aunt), I was drawn to her. Frustrated by her inability to stick up for herself, oh, my yes, and by her failure to follow through on the healthy decisions she does make. But nonetheless, charmed by and enamored of her.

Nonny is caught between two feuding families: the one she was biologically born into and the one that raised her. And every member of both families is a Character, in the capital-letter sense of the word. The three sisters who raised her, for instance: her mother (blind, deaf and dumb), her aunt ("four baby steps from flat crazy"), and her other aunt (well, you really have to meet Bernese to appreciate her; suffice it to say, Joshilyn includes in the Acknowledgements a fervent prayer that if Bernese really exists, she moves far, far away).

There's not much else I can say. I wouldn't want to spoil one, tiny little moment of discovery for you.

Just ... read the book. No, go buy the book. Don't wait for paperback.

It's that good.

Article © Katrina Stonoff. All rights reserved.
Published on 2006-08-28
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