The Girl Who Stopped Swimming: A Novel by Joshilyn Jackson (Grand Central Publishing, $13.99, 336 pages)
“Her good life was a thing made up… almost by accident… If she’d left pieces out, then she’d done it for her family. She’d only been buttoning shut the ugly parts. The things she’d buried were better left that way.”
If you like Jennifer Weiner (Best Friends Forever, In Her Shoes) you’re bound to love this popular fiction novel from Joshilyn Jackson (Girls in Alabama; Between, Georgia). Like Weiner, Jackson has a great, charming, story teller’s voice that you underestimate before realizing how skillfully she moves things along. In The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, Jackson moves swiftly between comedy and drama, happiness and sorrow, confusion and clarity. And like Weiner, she populates this novel with great characters of the South – intelligent and naive, wacky and brilliant.
The story’s main character, Laurel Gray Hawthorne, lives in the beautiful and exclusive – and clean and quiet – suburb of Victorianna. Then one night she wakes up to see her daughter’s best friend Molly, appearing to her as a ghost. Molly’s dead body is subsequently found in Laurel’s backyard swimming pool.
The local police initially write off the suspicious death as an accident, but Laurel is determined to solve the crime with the aid of her very frank and abrasive sister, Thalia. It’s not clear whether Laurel is trying to solve the criminal mystery to appease Molly’s ghost, to protect her daughter Shelby, or to resolve matters with the family ghosts she observed as a child. But once Laurel opens the door on the events of the fateful night, everything in her life comes into play…
Does she really know who she is? Does her husband love her? Does she know her own daughter? The neighbors? Is her community safe?
Further details will be left to prospective readers. This is, without a doubt, a fascinating read. “Left me breathless… You must read this book!” – Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants. Agreed. I will now be looking for a copy of Gods in Alabama.
“She’d tried to create an airtight home that ghosts could not enter, but they’d come in anyway, through the secret spaces, through the blanks she’d left in all the things she left unsaid…”