This book, A Grown Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson, is the first Joshilyn Jackson book I have read, but it won’t be the last. She writes in a Southern voice, but not a saccharine Southern voice. The way these three women, Jackson’s main characters, speak is full of color and of speech patterns unique to their various ages. Big (Ginny), is the matriarch, a girl child who grew up quickly when she got pregnant at fifteen and found herself alone with her child, Little (Liza). Big does not mince words, she has a bone to pick with the Baptists and she is fiercely protective of her daughter, who, when we meet Liza, is recovering from a stroke which she was too young and healthy to have had.
In spite of her mom’s warnings, out of a certain wild and spontaneous nature, and adult perversions beyond her control, Liza, who is very attractive to men, also finds herself pregnant at fifteen and runs away from home soon after. I told you this is a Southern story, but it is also a universal story. Liza arrives home two years later with her child Mosey in tow and an addiction to prescription drugs which she developed when she was trying to quit a meth addiction. We learn Liza’s life in flashbacks as each character in this story gets a chance to reveal her singular voice and tell her side of the tale in chapters that alternate among the three characters. We pick up the story in the year when Mosey turns fifteen (the curse year) and as we do we are presented with a mystery. There are family secrets which must be unraveled from an eyewitness (Liza), who is currently unable to speak. These secrets are killer, but not in the sense that turns this into an actual murder mystery, in a sense that reveals to us once again the sometimes venal nature of people who hide under proper exteriors.
The pace of the book is very fast and these women do not dwell on sorrow, but rather on truth, love, honest anger, and a certain feisty approach to life. I enjoyed Joshilyn Jackson’s book immensely. I especially appreciated the author’s ability to portray heavy matters lightly, but without making these matters seem unimportant.