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BOOKS: BETWEEN, GEORGIA by Joshilyn Jackson

by Joshilyn Jackson
(Warner Books, 2006)

Hardcover, 294 pgs, $22.99 U.S.

With BETWEEN, GEORGIA, her second novel, published just one year after her stunning debut, Gods in Alabama (2005), Joshilyn Jackson has exceeded all comparison with the legendary Harper Lee (who, with To Kill a Mockingbird, was also a talented southern author from Alabama, who wrote about the dark South) -- Harper Lee only published one book in her lifetime.

BETWEEN, GEORGIA is a triumph for Joshilyn Jackson. Gods in Alabama was a great book: received terrific reviews and critical acclaim, became a bestseller, and even landed Ms. Jackson the envied author spotlight on Oprah. BETWEEN, GEORGIA is even better.

Both novels are set in the "deep South" and could be categorized as "dysfunctional redneck" (a genre all Joshilyn Jackson's own) -- in a good way: compelling, and truly original -- with the main character in each struggling to escape her past, but drawn back to family and small town for reconciliation and redemption.

While readers will recognize Joshilyn Jackson's charming southern voice (more a twang than a drawl), her gift for storytelling, and laugh-out-loud funny southern characterizations, BETWEEN, GEORGIA (the name of a fictional town), is not a sequel. The small town in Georgia is a completely new setting, with all new characters, and very different essential conflicts. While the main character may seem familiar, as a strong southern girl, independent but emotionally damaged by her past, Nonny Frett is very different from Gods' Arlene Fleet.

Nonny Frett is a grown southern girl in her thirties, on the edge of divorce, if she and her aspiring, but way laid-back musician husband could ever stay out of bed and get around to it. Nonny lives and works in the college town of Athens, Georgia -- a thriving metropolis, compared to her hometown of Between, Georgia, population 90, most of whom she is related to in some way, either by birth, or by theft. While Nonny is trying to grow up and move on with her life (after she gets rid of the good-for-nothing husband), she's tied to her hometown in many more ways than one. It gets complicated...

The population of 90 in Between, Georgia, are all part of a decades-long feud between two families, and Nonny is caught right in the middle, between "the Fretts, who stole her and raised her right; and the Crabtrees, who lost her and can't forget that they've been done wrong."

Add in all the remarkable elements of Joshilyn Jackson's redneck dysfunctional storytelling talent: eccentricity, mental health, physical deformity/handicap, gross obesity, and, above all, love, loyalty and family, BETWEEN, GEORGIA is truly original. Reading along, you can't imagine what is going to happen next, right through to the shocking, explosive conclusion -- and there's a love story in there, too!

I liked Gods in Alabama -- a lot.
I really love, love, love BETWEEN, GEORGIA.
I can hardly wait to see what Joshilyn Jackson has in store for us next!

Here are some teasers you might enjoy, to get a flavor for Joshilyn Jackson and main character Nonny Frett, from BETWEEN, GEORGIA:

About her Crabtree grandmother:
"She's this horrible old racist drunk. She's as mean as a bag of snakes. She'll say awful things out loud, anything that comes into her head. She's had seven or eight common-law husbands since I've been alive, and none of them treated her children any good. She let them stay around anyway, being crappy to her kids, having more kids with them..."

About her husband and her Frett 'adoptive' mother(s):
"I would divorce him, and then I could settle down to live the rest of my life, alone, probably, because what man wants a thirty-year-old woman with one and a half mothers, one deaf-blind and the other so neurotic she was less than four baby steps from flat crazy..."

About Between, Georgia:
"There was no such thing as a town smaller than Between. If I came weaving and hiccupping around the corner from the rear entrance to Henry's store with a bed snarl on the back of my head, everyone in town, including my mama, would know about it before I could finish my five-minute walk home."


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