- Written by: Joshilyn Jackson
- Narrated by: Joshilyn Jackson
- Published by: William Morrow Books, July 11, 2017
- Length: 352 pages, audio 12 hours and 39 minutes
- Source: Received an advanced copy via the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Purchased audio book via Audible.
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. (publisher)
I’ve shared my love for the words of Joshilyn Jackson many times before, I’m guessing every time I’ve read or listened to one of her books. While I had this book in print, I chose to wait for the audio book. Joshilyn reading her words is pure joy. Her natural southern voice and the inflections she uses to add to each character’s voice is the best in audio narration.
This book surprised me at several turns, I wasn’t sure where the story lines were going to lead me. I always love secrets in books I read, and this one has plenty of them. Leia is a wonderful character full off self doubts and not sure where she fits in with her own family. When a pregnancy surprises her and she soon needs to return to Alabama, to her grandmother Birchie, where every summer of her youth was spent, she’s not unhappy. Birchville is home, and safe and typically filled with love. With Birchie again things are different this time. What we learn step by step is amazing and also disturbing. Leia has her niece with her. An inquisitive young girl is not immune to the instability in her own home, her parents fighting, and she is in tune with Leia, and wantsto help her uncover the mysterious Batman. Youth is often so funny, this is no different.
As Jackson shares this tale we learn of family history and exactly how this small town has expected certain behaviors of the Birch family. We see how race and privilege have indeed made a difference in the lives of so many.
Beautifully unfolding and so well told, I loved this book. The title has more than one meaning and the book made my heart ache with the love Leia has for her family. If you’ve never read Joshilyn Jackson this is a good place to start. Thank you again William Morrow for this book.