Summary and book reviews of Miss Jane by Brad Watson

Miss Jane

by Brad Watson

Miss Jane by Brad Watson
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2016, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2017, 288 pages

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Book Summary

Astonishing prose brings to life a forgotten woman and a lost world in a strange and bittersweet Southern pastoral.

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. Inspired by the true story of his own great-aunt, he 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 - namely, sex and marriage.

From the country doctor who adopts Jane to the hard tactile labor of farm life, from the highly erotic world of nature around her to the boy who loved but was forced to leave her, the world of Miss Jane Chisolm is anything but barren. Free to satisfy only herself, she mesmerizes those around her, exerting an unearthly fascination that lives beyond her still.

Excerpt
Miss Jane

You would not think someone so afflicted would or could be cheerful, not prone to melancholy or the miseries. Early on she acquired ways of dealing with her life, with life in general. And as she grew older it became evident that she feared almost nothing—perhaps only horses and something she couldn't quite name, a strange presence of danger not quite or not really a part of the world.

She didn't fear a fever of the kind that had taken brother William at the age of three, before she was born. To her mind such fate belonged to that child, not her.

She wasn't afraid of snakes, not even the poisonous kind, for she believed they wouldn't bite her if she simply left them alone. Mosquitoes, for some reason of their own, did not bite her, although she took no precautions against them.

She did not fear chickens, because she found them to be comically sage—in spite of what people said about stupid chickens. The same with pigs, although ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

It is not often that you happen upon a book so eloquently written, interesting in subject matter and overflowing with emotions. Simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking, this wonderful novel tapped every single feeling possible.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

With the exception of several stagey confrontations involving Jane 's older, coarser sister, Grace, Watson lets his ethereal heroine retain her quiet, dignified air of mystery

Kirkus Reviews

If the novel has a flaw, it's a lack of traditional drama. Jane approaches life with quiet determination, so her acceptance of her own limitations ultimately becomes a strength and not a weakness. A well-written portrait of a person whose rich inner life outstrips the limits of her body.

Library Journal

Starred Review. As Watson arcs through the story of Jane's life in sensitive, beautifully precise prose, we are both absorbed and humbled. Highly recommended.

Author Blurb Andrea Barrett, author of Archangel
Calmly, quietly, with deceptive simplicity, Brad Watson's moving tale brings to life a most unusual woman, finding a most unusual grace.

Author Blurb Melissa Pritchard, author of Palmerino and A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness, and Write
Miss Jane is a novel of majestic empathy. Readers have Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Gustav Flaubert's Emma Bovary, Harper Lee's Scout - to these and other immortal women of literature, we can now add Brad Watson's divine beacon of love, Miss Jane.

Reader Reviews

Kat F. (Palatine, IL)

A beautiful book
Best thing I've read in years. I would give it 20 stars if I could. I can not share any better than the good reviews already expressed. A well written, beautiful and peaceful book.

Laura E. (El Cajon, CA)

Miss Jane by Brad Watson
What a pleasure this book was! The descriptions of Mississippi during this time period were beautifully written and the characters truly came to life as the story unfolded. I was caught up in this tale immediately and felt sympathy, heartbreak, ...   Read More

Lynne B. (Exeter, NH)

Surprising Treasure of a Read
Miss Jane by Brad Watson is a surprising treasure of a read. This was a totally unexpected story with beautiful writing. So much more than a tale of a girl born with a rare deformity, it is the story of the struggle of one family in the 20s and 30s ...   Read More

Maggie R. (Canoga Park, CA)

Quietly powerful
A beautiful book. Calm as a deep river that flows on despite the occasional turbulence. The character Jane would feel at home in Harper Lee's Maycomb or Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, and with the women young and old in those books whose lives we share...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Persistent Cloaca

Miss Jane is based on Brad Watson's great-aunt's life. She, like the central character in his novel, suffered from a genital birth defect. But what exactly was it?

In an interview at W.W. Norton, Watson says:

As was common in her day (she actually lived from 1888-1975, but it applies to my Jane's day and time, too), no one really talked about it. And so no one alive by the time I came into the world really knew "what was wrong with Aunt Jane."… One of the more difficult parts of my research was figuring out what her condition may have been. I had little to go on: her known incontinence, and a late discovery that she had only one opening for the elimination of waste, which led me down a long path of crossing out this and ...

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