Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson

Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover (available in trade May 2007; mass market December 2007), 294 pages, 2006

Rating: 9/10

Reason for Reading: Try and stop me! Last year, Jackson’s first novel, gods in Alabama, was number two on my top ten list for 2005.

Synopsis: Nonny Frett seems to live in two worlds, a fate handed to her at birth, when she was adopted (under questionable circumstances) – transferred from the downtrodden Crabtree family into the morally upright (but still eccentric and volatile) Frett clan. Now thirty, Nonny is on the verge of a potentially explosive visit home, called away when she was practically on the eve of finalizing her divorce to a man she can’t seem to stay away from. She arrives in the small town of Between to find an all-out war erupting between the Fretts and the Crabtrees, and things are going to get absolutely vicious (and violent) unless Nonny can find a way to soothe thirty years of tension and flat-out hatred.

Why you should read this book: Is it wrong to fall in love with black squiggles on a white piece of paper, even if they are bundled up and lovingly placed into book form? I don’t really mind if it is wrong, I just want to know where I’ll stand after proclaiming my adoration of Nonny and all of the other characters residing in Between. The success of Between, Georgia stems from Jackson’s ability to not just create a fully-formed family, but to make the reader feel like she is part of the family through all of their sorrows, hopes, and love. Nonny’s mother, Stacia Frett, is a particularly good example – she is a blind and deaf but incredibly perceptive woman whose love and determination brings an awe-inspiring presence to the story. The book hits a perfect tone, bringing up the entire mixed-bag of emotions that families tend to inspire, while still keeping the plot moving in a tense but realistic fashion. Buy it, read it, love it; tell two friends.

Why you should avoid this book: In the first part of the book, I was a little worried about Between, Georgia being overly similar to gods in Alabama, not in the plot but rather in its rhythm (woman called back to her hometown where great troubles await; the general feeling to the interaction between couples). Fortunately, such fears were brief, as Between, Georgia quickly finds its own identity.

Opening paragraph:

The war began thirty years, nine months, and seven days ago, when I was deaf and blind, floating silent and serene inside Hazel Crabtree. I was secreted in Hazel’s womb, which was cloaked in her pale and freckled skin, which was in turn hidden by the baggy sweatsuits she adopted so she would look fat instead of pregnant. Which was ridiculous, because who ever heard of a fat Crabtree? They were all tall and weedy, slouching around like wilting stems, red hair blooming out the top.

Fabulous quotes:

I scrunched down to read in the fading afternoon sunlight, but I couldn’t get my eyes to focus on the words. I pulled in a deep breath, my first since I had talked to Bernese. The porch smelled of Jonno. Not like him personally, but like the air around him. It smelled like a place Jonno would be. I wanted him there so badly, although if he didn’t show up in the next few minutes, I wasn’t sure what I’d say.
Except that was a lie. I knew what I wanted to say. I said it anyway, even though he wasn’t there. ‘I’m so angry,’ I said. ‘I’m so angry, so angry,’ and saying it at last made me able to feel it. Down in the pit of my stomach, I could sense how it had grown beneath my initial panic, creeping along my bones like a vine, filling me and twining down through all my limbs, spreading up through me and binding me.

I know better than to try and talk her out of working until her shoulder had more time to heal. When Mama was ready to sculpt, you couldn’t stop her if you tied her to the bed. It sounds wonderful, I said. But you are going to wear yourself out. Why won’t you go to bed? I’ll get your cake out for you when it’s done.
Because I want cake now
, she said.
Why are you so cussed and strong-willed? For ‘cussed,’ I used one of our home signs, shaping the letter B beside my right temple and then shooting it forward, fisting my hand with my index finger extended. A more perfect and literal interpretation was probably ‘Bernese-ish.’
Because my mama taught me I had to be, she said. Her eyebrows knit together, and she tapped at my wrist three times with her index finger. After another pause, she added, So did your mama. Why aren’t you?

Also recommended: The Girls by Lori Lansens; Nora Jane by Ellen Gilchrist; The Untelling by Tayari Jones.

Also by this author: gods in Alabama.

Author’s website:

Fun tidbit: Click here for the interview Joshilyn Jackson did last year with Book Brothel.

Would I read more by this author? I am an absolute glutton for Jackson’s books. More, more, more.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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