This book really touched me. Rose’s story (to me) could have been about virtually anyone who comes from a history of abuse. She’s a smart girl with a lot to contribute to society, and yet she seems trapped by her past and continually repeats the cycle. She is angry at the world – and understandably so – but she is also angry at herself for loving her abuser(s) and therefore being vulnerable to them…particularly her husband. Even as she realizes he will eventually kill her and sets about to disappear, she doesn’t disappear enough. It’s almost as though she has some glimmer of hope that she will get a “re-do” with him…that he will change…even though she knows it won’t go that way. This emotional connection takes so many people back to their abusers time & again, and I thought Joshilyn Jackson did a superb job of showing how difficult it can be to break the cycle, especially when one’s abuser is driven by an obsession rather than emotions or drugs/alcohol.
The second thing that Jackson does extraordinarily well is develop a well-rounded, complex picture of small town Southern life. She creates characters (families) that embody the good and the bad of being from the small town South. The stereotype of the Southern family being notoriously crazy, and more so than families from any other region, is not just a literary convention. There is an attitude that the South produces it’s own brand of eccentricity that is more exaggerated & pronounced than any other region in the US. Perhaps it is true, perhaps it isn’t. It is funny and touching, and stingingly true sometimes, and being a child of the South myself, this resonates with me on every level.
Finally, what I loved most about this book is that Jackson revisits characters & elements of a previous book, and fleshes out a formerly minor character into a full-fledged protagonist. This is a technique that I find very appealing. It provides back story for the characters without serializing the story. Each book can stand on its own, but becomes a richer reading experience if the reader has the benefit of having met the characters in previous books. Rosamunde Pilcher, Barbara Delinsky, Maeve Binchy and many others have used this technique with great success, and Jackson delivers here in brilliant fashion.