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Book Review

‘Miss Jane’

7/13/2016

Brad Watson, author of the 2002 National Book Award finalist “The Heaven of Mercury,” delivers a long-awaited novel for eager fans and newcomers alike. Miss Jane is a unique, beautifully written story based on Watson’s great-aunt, Mary Ellis “Jane” Clay, who was born with a urogenital defect in the late 19th century. His family knows little about her, so Watson tried to imagine what her life might have been like, considering her condition, and has created a profound, empathetic portrait.book 7.14

His character, Jane Chisolm, is born with a similar defect in 1915 in poor, rural Mississippi. Incontinent and unable to have children, and with few resources available to help better her situation due to poverty and the times, Jane faces life-long isolation on her family’s farm. Her mother is withdrawn and unloving, her father is overworked and often inebriated, and her brash older sister is fervent about getting away from her family as soon as possible.

Jane has an ally in Dr. Thompson, who remains her great advocate throughout his life, gently teaching her about her condition as he learns more about it himself, attempting to help improve it, and being available to offer her friendship, love and intelligent conversation when her family cannot. She also develops a genuine, loving relationship with a sweet neighbor boy and enjoys the feelings of early romance before it’s broken off by her father.

Rarely venturing into town, Jane delights in spending time in the woods around her house, studying and enjoying the natural world. Contemplative, wise and quiet, Jane possesses a lovely courage that helps her discover a life rich beyond its limitations. As he honors the life of his aunt, one that could have easily been forgotten, Watson presents a tender, moving novel of a heroic woman with a steadfast spirit. CV

 

HIV
By Brad Watson

WW Norton and Company

July 12, 2016

$25.95

288 pp

 

Fay Jones was born with a love of literature, which was finely shored up throughout her early years by her parents and a beloved children’s librarian who wore the thickest glasses ever manufactured. Ms. Jones once won a coupon for a free ice cream cone after her suggestion for a name for the local Reading Is Fundamental mascot was selected. 

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