Since his award-winning debut collection of stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men, Brad Watson has been expanding the literary traditions of the South, in work as melancholy, witty, strange, and lovely as any in America.
Now, drawing on the story of his own great-aunt, Watson explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural, early-twentieth-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that would stand in the way of the central "uses" for a woman in that time and place: sex and marriage. From the highly erotic world of nature around her to the hard tactile labor of farm life, from the country doctor who befriends her to the boy who loved but was forced to leave her, Miss Jane Chisolm and her world are anything but barren.
The potency and implacable cruelty of nature, as well as its beauty, is a trademark of Watson's fiction. In Miss Jane, the author brings to life a hard, unromantic past that is tinged with the sadness of unattainable loves, yet shot through with a transcendent beauty. Jane Chisolm's irrepressible vitality and generous spirit give her the strength to live her life as she pleases in spite of the limitations that others, and her own body, would place on her. Free to satisfy only herself, she mesmerizes those around her, exerting an unearthly fascination that lives beyond her still.
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A story worth telling even as it breaks your heart.--Amy Brady
An exceptionally well written book. The prose was beautiful and the novel had a gentleness about it...I loved this book for its simplicity and would highly recommend it.--Meredith Kelly
[The] complexity and drama of Watson's gorgeous work here is life's as well: Sometimes physical realities expand us, sometimes trap; sometimes heroism lies in combating our helplessness, sometimes in accepting it. A writer of profound emotional depths, Watson does not lie to his reader, so neither does his Jane. She never stops longing for a wholeness she may never know, but she is determined that her citizenship in the world, however onerous, be dragged into the light and there be lived without apology or perfection or pity.--Amy Grace Loyd
[Jane's] fearless acceptance of what sets her apart is profoundly human, and her lifelong struggle to understand her place in the world reflects the intricate workings of our own mysterious hearts.--Gina Webb
As Watson arcs through the story of Jane's life in sensitive, beautifully precise prose, we are both absorbed and humbled.
Watson has done something extraordinary here. This is not grit-lit...But it is Southern literature, nevertheless: fresh, new, without cliché. Watson may be our best.-- (07/12/2016)