Tag Archives: Joshilyn Jackson

You’ll Never Know

hallie ephron dear

You’ll Never Know, Dear: A Novel of Suspense by Hallie Ephron (William Morrow, $26.99, 304 pages)

This is the year that two of my favorite authors have published books about sisters whose roots are in the South.  Joshilyn Jackson’s The Almost Sisters is an excellent novel that explores the deep-seated social rules that have persisted through generations.  You’ll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron (Night Night, Sleep Tight) explores the haunting, mysterious disappearance of a little girl and the impact of that tragedy on her mother, older sister and law enforcement.

Seven-year-old Lissie was entrusted to look out for her four-year-old sister Janey.  Granted, the disappearance took place forty years ago in the front yard of a home in a sleepy, small town in South Carolina.  Perhaps even today a mom in a similar setting might do the same, maybe.  That same house is still occupied by the aging mom, Miss Sorrel.  Lissie (now Lis) is the divorced mother of Vanessa, a post-graduate student.  Lis cares for her mother and broods over the terrible time she was distracted by her imagination and wandered off into the woods near the house.  Her failed marriage and subsequent lack of support prompted Lis to return to South Carolina years ago.

Each year since Janey’s disappearance, a classified ad placed in the newspaper by Miss Sorrel marks the date.  A reward is offered for the return of Janey’s porcelain doll that vanished along with the little girl.  The suspense builds after a woman with a Harley-Davidson tattoo answers the ad.  Clearly, she is not the sort of person who possesses a hand-painted china doll.

Miss Sorrel and her next-door neighbor, Evelyn Dumont have a decades-long friendship centered around restoring antique dolls, including the personalized china dolls Miss Sorrel created in years past.  Each doll’s hair and features were fashioned to resemble the lucky girl whose parents commissioned Miss Sorrel to create the one-of-a-kind treasure.

Hallie Ephron provides readers with an in-depth look at the art of doll making.  The marvelous details include references to Madame Alexander dolls.  This reviewer has a modest collection of these lovely dolls that began with a much-loved eighth birthday present.  The book’s targeted audience is first and foremost ladies of middle age and older who have a fondness for the dolls of their youth.

Suspense and mystery novel lovers will appreciate the twisting story line that includes more than a few family secrets.  Ms. Ephron has written another spellbinding tale that does more than rest on the laurels of her past fine works.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.  This book was released on June 6, 2017.

Click here to read a review of The Almost Sisters: A Novel by Joshilyn Jackson:

https://josephsreviews.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/sisters-of-the-moon/

 

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Sisters of the Moon

Almost Sisters: A Novel by Joshilyn Jackson (William Morrow, $26.99, 352 pages)

almost sisters

Every family has secrets that persist over generations.  When a family happens to have its roots in a small town in Alabama, long-standing Southern mores bring added depth to its history.  Author Joshilyn Jackson has written a family tale worthy of high praise, The Almost Sisters.  Her main character, cartoonist Leia Birch, is the family outlier.  Her stepsister, Rachel, is the conventional, perfectionist Southern wife who resides in a faux-Tara home with her husband, Jake, and daughter, Lavender.

Leia Birch is not just a cartoonist; she’s the artist behind a DC Comics limited series, Violence in Violet.  The success of the series brought Leia to a comic-book convention in Atlanta where she was the featured artist.  Months later Leia has a secret that she knows will only be met with acceptance by her beloved grandmother, Miss Birchie.

Miss Birchie has her own secrets; although, if she can’t stay quiet in church, at least half of Birchville will find out.  The town, founded by her family, retains many vestiges of the old South.  There is the white neighborhood and the colored one.  People have their places in society and the ridged structure rarely bends to accommodate modern beliefs from outside.

Leia not only has a secret, she has a contract to write and illustrate the prequel for her Violence in Violet series.  The pressure is on as she drives to Birchville to confide in her grandmother.  Little does she suspect that what awaits her may be beyond what she’s able to handle.  There is more than one set of sisters.

Readers will be drawn into the fascinating threads of Author Jackson’s tale.  This book may be fiction but it could also be drawn from real life.  Ms. Jackson is that good at conveying the humanity of each of her unforgettable characters.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was received from the publisher.  Almost Sisters was released on July 11, 2017.

 

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Arc of a Diver

girl-who-stopped-swimming

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.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

the girl who“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…”

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