Friday, October 4, 2013

#BookReview: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson has such a way with words, both written and spoken.  When I met her earlier this summer, the only thing I could say to her after fangirling out was, "I love the way you read!"  I do.  The way Jackson narrates her books really brings her characters to life.  She doesn't spend a lot of time describing her characters, but in the voices she creates for them, you begin to paint a picture of them in your own mind.

Jackson typically writes about strong women, though most of the women don't realize how strong they are until they're faced with a situation.  The Girl Who Stopped Swimming is no exception.  Laurel Hawthorne has never thought of herself as strong.  That would be her sister, Thalia.  When the body of a neighbor turns up in her pool, Laurel knows that she can't deal with what happens next without Thalia by her side.

The thing about Jackson's strong women is that that they can be abrasive.  Abrasive could be Thalia's middle name and David, Laurel's husband, does not need or want any parts of Thalia in his house.  When he realizes that the only way Laurel, and their daughter Shelby, will make it through any of this is with Thalia's help, he reluctantly agrees.  Tension in the house is only made thicker by the presence of Bette, a summer visitor from an Appalachia-like town where Laurel and Thalia's mother grew up.

Conversations between Laurel and Thalia are revealing.  One might think that something happened to Thalia to make her become the direct, no nonsense personality that she is.  In fact, Laurel believes that something did happen, since her childhood experience shaped her into the woman she is.  It's only through conversations about their childhood that she learns otherwise.  It's also in those conversations that we learn how Laurel took on a habit of her mother unknowingly.

Jackson redefines the word cowslip to refer to Thalia and Laurel's mother.  Based on a character in Watership Down, cowslipping is the practice of turning a blind eye to unpleasant things around you and pretend all is well.  Laurel lives her life believing that her mother saved her from a situation by finally getting involved, only to find out that she cowslipped the whole incident.  That awakening is enough for Laurel to take control from Thalia and stop cowslipping her own existence.

Because it was darker than most books from Jackson, this one took me a little longer to get through.  It was definitely worth it, but probably not the best choice for a beach read.

Listening time: 9 hours and 24 minutes
Published: March 2008

Theme: Get Up by Amel Larrieux
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