Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson *****

Jackson’s folksy, humorous love story is more complex than it appears at first glimpse; its entertainment value is instantly obvious. She has taken the town of Between, Georgia, which exists midway twixt Athens and Atlanta, and used it to create a fictional haven for a plethora of characters drawn so deftly that they all but materialize in front of the reader.

Nonny, our protagonist, is between many things. In fact, the deeper one looks at this supposedly light romance, the more “betweens” there are in the story, in setting, in plot, and above all, in character. The teacher in me wants to assign an essay question about it. You are excused from the essay, but you ought to read the book, even if, like me, you generally pass on romances. And for goodness sake, pay attention!

In some ways, this is a story that could have been set in just about any Between in just about any English-speaking setting as long as it was in a small town (and anyone who sniffs at the story as failing to accurately represent Georgia and Georgians completely misses the fact that this is not really a story about Georgia at all). How many of us have dealt with the question of nature versus nurture? How many of us have alcoholics, anxious individuals who are prone to harming themselves, yet keeping “four baby steps” out of the psych ward, neat freaks, slobs, and feuding relatives in our lives? Are you nodding yet? And how many of us have a small person in the family we suspect is being raised by the wrong relative? Then there are those of us who are between relationships, and the world that exists between the hearing and the deaf, the blind and those whose visual acuity is dandy. I am only scratching the surface here. There is so much of life jammed into this one work of fiction that it leaves me breathless.

It is the commonness and humanity in this tale that ultimately makes it so empathetic and readable, but the writing is brilliant. The prose are so fresh and original that they make me question several of the five star ratings I have given to other writers.

Jackson has written a real gem. Sometimes I conclude my reviews by saying that a book is worth reading if you can get it free or cheap. Not this story, not this time. Open a window and order it, or get in the car and go get it. You have to read this book. Whether for depth of literary analysis or pure fuzzy joy, you’ll be richer for doing so!

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