"Until the drowned girl came to Laurel's bedroom, ghosts had never walked in Victorianna."
- The opening line from Joshilyn Jackson's ' The Girl Who Stopped Swimming.'
Have you ever heard a more fantastic opening line in recent times? It's possibly the best, I've come across in the past 12 months, -certainly drew me in, covered me in goosebumps and raised fine hairs on the back of my neck from the 'get-go.'
Laurel Hawthorne is the main protagonist in this finely woven tale, set in a nice neighbourhood in Pensacola, Florida. One night, Laurel wakes to the ghost of a young teenager Molly, her daughter Shelby's best friend and from there we watch Laurels world unravel, -it's not just the mystery surrounding Molly's body in their swimming pool, the story delves into Laurels own childhood memories, her relationship with her mother, and the small town they all strived to leave. Once you start reading this book you can't help but wonder what's around the corner for Laurel and her family. There's the murder mystery, a good dose of family drama, -perhaps one of the most entertaining Mother-Daughter scenes I've read. And of course we have sibling rivalry with her estranged and seemingly eccentric sister Thalia, though I'm not convinced she's all that different. We even touch on what defines a good marital relationship, we meet Laurel's computer geeky husband, David - at first adorable but after a while, you're not so sure.
This book is a good reminder that behind those white picket fences of good suburban homes, all is not what is seems; and perhaps that in poorer neighbourhoods, -what you see on the outside, is exactly how it looks on the inside. I felt this story had a deeper theme within its layers, -below the surface, there is much more to it than it would outwardly seem, you sense an underlying commentary on society, the differences between growing up rich or poor in the Southern States. You could also propose that the death of young Molly herself symbolises the death and new beginning of Laurels own life.
I loved Ms Jackson's storytelling, she's a talented writer who knows how precisely to show you the past and she has that uncanny ability to cut to the present seamlessly. Did I mention the supernatural element to this tale? At times I wished we could stay in the past and really sort through Laurel and Thalia's childhood. I hope you read 'The Girl Who Stopped Swimming,' it's one of these books which you sit back at the end, and just sigh, very deeply. Indeed.
If you want to read more about Joshilyn Jackson and her books, -do visit her website here.