The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
Published by Hachette Audio
Laurel’s perfect, innocent existence is shattered when the ghost of her 13-year-old neighbor Molly shows up in her bedroom one night. The ghost takes Laurel to the physical Molly, dead in Laurel’s pool. Molly’s death is a mystery that shakes Laurel’s perfect life – with her husband David and daughter Shelby – to the core. She enlists the help of her crazy sister Thalia to solve the mystery, and this brings back painful memories from Laurel’s past, causing truths about her life she’d rather have kept hidden float to the surface.
This is my third experience with Joshilyn Jackson’s books, and every time I read one I feel like I don’t have enough adjectives to explain how much I truly love her novels. While I’m not sure that The Girl Who Stopped Swimming will be my favorite Jackson novel, I really, really enjoyed it. Her characters – as always – are full to bursting of Southern charm, the plot contains a mystery seeped in family secrets, and the resolution is complete without being too neat and tidy.
I love Jackson’s heroines because they are always flawed but totally lovable, and Laurel is no different. She prefers to ignore the ugliness and difficult things in her past and in her life, and because of that she’s built a pretty stable wall around her daughter Shelby and around her marriage to her husband David. But the second her family comes into town – her mother and sister especially – it all goes to hell and she has to struggle to keep her perfect life intact. I felt for Laurel because it was obvious the intense love she had for Shelby and her intention was to give her this beautiful, perfect life that Laurel didn’t get, but at the same time she was doing it at the expense of sharing with Shelby what the real world has to offer. I think it’s always important to teach children the truth – at age-appropriate times of course – and Laurel was so intent on shielding her from the bad things in life that she wasn’t being truthful with Shelby. I loved watching Laurel understand this, slowly, as the plot thickened over the course of the novel.
I didn’t love the plot and resolution of the mystery in The Girl Who Stopped Swimming as much as I have with Jackson’s other novels, but a Jackson plot I don’t love is comparable to some other author’s plot I do love. What I mean to say is – it still was awesome, just not AS awesome as some of her other books. And I love that Jackson isn’t afraid to tackle Issues, but she always does it with a lighthearted touch. In this case, it’s poverty and drug addiction, and while both are difficult topics to cover in a novel as funny as this one, Jackson completely pulls it off. The ending manages to convey a message while also being funny and heartwarming.
Joshilyn Jackson is great! Read her books. Oh, and as always, I listened to The Girl Who Stopped Swimming in audio because Jackson narrates her audios herself. And she is fantastic at doing that. If you are an audio person, her books are not to be missed. And if you are not an audio person, read them in print!