06 August 2010

Featuring . . . Girl Trouble by Holly Goddard Jones

This Friday and every Friday for the next several months I'll be featuring a book in the Harper Perennial Imprint. Some were recently published, some will be released later this year, all are worth a closer look.

This week, I'm spotlighting a book that has been on my radar for almost a year now. There are a number of things that caught my attention when I first heard of Holly Goddard Jones's collection Girl Trouble.

Here's the summary from Harper Perennial:

In Girl Trouble, acclaimed writer Holly Goddard Jones examines small-town Southerners aching to be good, even as they live in doubt about what goodness is.

A high school basketball coach learns that his star player is pregnant--with his child. A lonely woman reflects on her failed marriage and the single act of violence, years buried, that brought about its destruction. In these eight beautifully written, achingly poignant, and occasionally heartbreaking stories, the fine line between right and wrong, good and bad, love and violence is walked over and over again.

In "Good Girl," a depressed widower is forced to decide between the love of a good woman and the love of his own deeply flawed son. In another part of town and another time, thirteen-year-old Ellen, the central figure of "Theory of Realty," is discovering the menaces of being at that age: too old for the dolls of her girlhood, too young to understand the weaknesses of the adults who surround her. The linked stories "Parts" and "Proof of God" offer distinct but equally correct versions of a brutal crime--one from the perspective of the victim's mother, one from the killer's.
I have never really known why I'm always attracted to a Southern setting in books and movies, but I am. Jones's stories take us to small-town Kentucky and her conflicted characters have made a strong impression on professional reviewers:
  • Oprah.com: "The beauty of these stories (and they are exhilarating) stems from how deeply we're pulled into this complex world, nudged to recognize the thin line between missed opportunity and despair, inarticulate love and loss."
  • The Chicago Tribune: "While these stories are rooted in place, and Jones may have a particular knack for girls as they come of age, she creates characters and conflicts on a collision course with right, wrong and each other."
  • Publisher's Weekly: "Throughout each [story], the fallible characters are handled with delicate honesty. Though the setting tends to feel repetitive, Jones writes with grace and ease, the selections adding up to a powerful sum of reflection, loss and regret." (Note: I couldn't get the PW link to work.)
When I was looking at the Reading Guide, I was struck by the range of questions, from good and evil, to sex, violence, gender issues, parent-child relationships, and fate. That's quite a lot to fit into a collection of eight stories.

For more on Holly Goddard Jones, visit her website and read her guest post about the Southern Festival of Books on Book Club Girl's blog. Girl Trouble was on the Indie Next List for October 2009.

This book was featured as part of my Spotlight on the Harper Perennial imprint. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. You might also want to visit the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.

Girl Trouble at Powell's
Girl Trouble at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780061776304


Violet 8/6/10, 6:52 AM  

Never heard of this book before but it sure sounds good.

Veens 8/6/10, 8:01 AM  

Wow, sounds definitely good! I have read some Southern books and loved the description of the places and the language :)

Julie P. 8/6/10, 10:06 AM  

MUST read this one! I love books like this!

bermudaonion 8/6/10, 1:07 PM  

You got me when you said small-town Southerners!

Teresa 8/6/10, 5:50 PM  

I hadn't heard of this one. I am intrigued by it. Looking forward to reading it.

Jenners 8/6/10, 9:03 PM  

Just hearing the synopses for the stories sounds like it has ideas enough for a novel for each one.

Lenore Appelhans 8/8/10, 1:30 PM  

Wow - that sounds like it brings up a lot of issues!

Alice 8/8/10, 8:02 PM  

I'm attracted to books with Southern setting too. In fact, when I visit the US end of this year, I will be heading that way instead of the big cities. I want to read this. Thanks for the mention, Beth!

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