Monday, August 11, 2008

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson

Laurel Gray Hawthorne needs to make things pretty, whether she's helping her mother make sure the literal family skeleton stays in the closet or turning scraps of fabric into nationally acclaimed art quilts. Her estranged sister Thalia, an impoverished Actress with a capital A, is her polar opposite, priding herself on exposing the lurid truth lurking behind middle class niceties. While Laurel's life seems neatly on track--a passionate marriage, a treasured daughter, and a lovely home in suburban Victorianna--everything she holds dear is suddenly thrown into question the night she is visited by the ghost of a her 13-year old neighbor Molly Dufresne.

The ghost leads Laurel to the real Molly floating lifelessly in the Hawthorne's backyard pool. Molly's death is inexplicable--an unseemly mystery Laurel knows no one in her whitewashed neighborhood is up to solving. Only her wayward, unpredictable sister is right for the task, but calling in a favor from Thalia is like walking straight into a frying pan protected only by Crisco. Enlisting Thalia's help, Laurel sets out on a life-altering journey that triggers startling revelations about her family's guarded past, the true state of her marriage, and the girl who stopped swimming.

Until recently I have not been a fan of audio books at all. I found that my mind would wander and I would have no idea what had just happened in the book. This audio, though, had me captivated right from the start. The book is narrated by the author and I loved her voices for all the characters, except for Laurel's father. Yes, he was supposed to have a nasal voice, but it still bugged me a bit. At least he was a fairly minor character.

One thing I found interesting with this book was how my feelings toward Thalia would swing between loving how wild and unbridled she was, to being completely fed up and angry with her for meddling in Laurel's life. Usually I either like a character or don't, and with Thalia I still can't decide. Actually, now that I sit down to write this, there are a few characters that I have conflicted feelings about. I think Joshilyn Jackson did a wonderful job of leaving each characters actions open to interpretation. She never said a characters actions were right or wrong, she just presented the story and let each reader's own experiences color the characters.

This is the fist book I "read" by Jackson, but it won't be the last. Whether in book or audio format I will definitely be checking out her other books. 4.5 stars.

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