Thursday, July 8, 2010

Joshilyn Jackson

New York Times bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson lives in Georgia with her husband, their two children, and way too many feckless animals. Her debut, gods in Alabama, won SIBA's 2005 Novel of the year Award and was a #1 BookSense pick. Jackson won Georgia Author of the Year for her second novel, Between, Georgia, which also a #1 BookSense pick, making Jackson the first author in BookSense history to receive #1 status in back to back years. Her third novel, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, was a Break Out book at Target and has been shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction. All three books were chosen for the Books-A-Million Book Club.

Her latest novel, Backseat Saints (June 2010), tells the story of Rose Mae Lolley, a fierce, tiny ball of war wounds who was a minor character in gods in Alabama. Her life changes dramatically when she meets an airport gypsy who shares her past and knows her future. The gypsy's dire prediction: Ro's handsome, violent husband is going to kill her - unless she kills him first...

Last month I asked Jackson what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished tour, which means umpty plane rides, which means I’ve been reading a metric buttload of eclectic picks, based on the ARCS I managed to hoover up at BEA, books I nabbed in airports, and the recommendations of booksellers I met on tour.

Ape House: I shamelessly stole an ARC at BEA even though there were a limited number and everyone was trying to nab them. I am not even sorry. I would steal it again. It opens with a bang, literally, as animal rights activists blow up a lab to “rescue” a group of Bonobo apes who speak American Sign Language. Isabel Duncan, a scientist who has bonded with the apes and who isn’t great at making human connections, is the rich, red heart of this book. She’ll do anything to find her missing family, and the plot is a rollercoaster ride that explores what it means to be human.

61 Days: Number something-teen in a long-running thriller series that never seems to get stale. I unabashedly love Jack Reacher, an ex-military cop and current drifter who is a magnet for big, fat, hairy trouble. 61 days could be easily read as a stand alone, I think, but it’s worth starting at book one (Killing Floor) and getting the next one whenever you find yourself in the thriller mood. I did it that way, and I am SO sad that I have caught up with the series and now have to wait for the next release!

City of Thieves: Recommended to me by a bookseller at The BookMark in Atlantic Beach, Florida, this coming of age tale is set during the Nazi Siege of Leningrad. I laughed out loud and wept openly on a plane like an idiot reading this brutal, blackly funny, bittersweet tale. A pair of mis-matched “war criminals” search for a dozen eggs for a powerful colonel’s daughter’s wedding cake to save their lives.

A Soft Place to Land: This book was in every airport I went to, which struck me as ironic, as it opens with a plane crash. It tells the story of a pair of half sisters orphaned in that crash as they grow up separately, a country apart. It was so beautifully written and so moving. It’s all about connection, and it is ultimately hopeful without ever once slipping into sentimentality. It’s the work of a first rate talent.

The 19th Wife was a gift from Calvin Crosby at Books INC in San Francisco, and that guy can pick my next read anytime. It’s a novel that swings back and forth in time, from Brigham Young’s 19th wife and her crusade to end polygamy to a contemporary murder mystery that features “lost boys,” young men forcibly run off by the older, powerful men running a town of modern day polygamists. It’s a page turner for sure, and a compassionate examination all the ways--for good or ill--we define and create families.
Learn more about the author and her books at Joshilyn Jackson's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming.

My Book, The Movie: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming.

--Marshal Zeringue