Published by HarperCollins on July 11, 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Realistic
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With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of Gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality - the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.
Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs' weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.
It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She's having a baby boy - an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old's life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel's marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she's been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.
Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother's affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she's pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she's got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie's been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family's freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.
A woman learns a family secret while battling an unexpected pregnancy in this adult contemporary novel. Review time!
Joshilyn Jackson tends to write stories set in the American South with religious and racial undertones. I’ve been meaning to pick up one of her novels before now, but this is the first time a synopsis interested me. I have a soft spot for nerd culture, and nothing says nerdy like “a graphic novelist knocked up at a convention.” Props does go to Mrs. Jackson – she does a great job with inserting comic books, superheroes, Star Wars, and other pop culture references throughout the novel. I honestly cannot tell if the author is a nerdy fan or if she just did her research really well.
The main character, Leia Birch Briggs, is a courageous and introspective character. She’s as well versed in pop culture as she is in small town living. She faces many challenges in the novel specifically with her family and her heritage. It’s very much a character study, illustrating the changes within someone as they face circumstances out of their control. The secondary characters are well developed, although some rely heavily on Southern stereotypes.
However, the plot suffers with so much detail spent on the characters and setting. Not all that much occurs in the novel. While I overall enjoyed the characters and setting, I wish more had actually happened in the book.
tl;dr A bittersweet, character driven novel about family – those biologically related to you and those you choose for yourself.