The Girl Who Stopped Swimming

( 123 )

Overview

Lauren Gray Hawthorne needs to make things pretty, whether she's helping her mother keep family skeletons in the closet or sewing her acclaimed art quilts. Her estranged sister, Thalia, is her opposite, an impoverished actress who prides herself on exposing the lurid truths lurking behind middle class niceties.


While Laurel's life seems neatly on track— a passionate marriage, a treasured daughter, a lovely ...

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Overview

Lauren Gray Hawthorne needs to make things pretty, whether she's helping her mother keep family skeletons in the closet or sewing her acclaimed art quilts. Her estranged sister, Thalia, is her opposite, an impoverished actress who prides herself on exposing the lurid truths lurking behind middle class niceties.


While Laurel's life seems neatly on track— a passionate marriage, a treasured daughter, a lovely suburban home— everything she holds dear is threatened the night she is visited by the ghost of her 13-year-old neighbor Molly. The ghost leads Laurel to the real Molly, floating lifelessly in the Hawthorne's backyard pool. Molly's death is an unseemly mystery that no one in her whitewashed neighborhood is up to solving. Laurel enlists Thalia's help, even though she knows it comes with a high price tag.


Together, they set out on a life-altering journey that triggers startling revelations about their family's haunted past, the true state of Laurel's marriage, and the girl who stopped swimming.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...a great tale [that] builds to an exciting and violent ending, one that surprises and yet seems to fit."
-USA Today

"... buoyant and moving ....beautifully balanced between magical and realist fiction... closer in tone and voice to Alice Sebold's 'The Lovely Bones' or Richard Ford's Frank Bascombe trilogy."
-Atlanta Journal Constitution

"A ghost story, family psychodrama, and murder mystery all in one. Jackson's latest is a wild, smartly calibrated achievement. A-."
-Entertainment Weekly

"Jackson matches effortless Southern storytelling with a keen eye for character and heart-stopping circumstances."
-Publisher's Weekly

"Joshilyn Jackson has done it again... her skillful unraveling of family secrets and betrayal left me breathless. You must read this book!"
-Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of WATER FOR ELEPHANTS

Publishers Weekly

Laurel, the center of Jackson's emotionally taut third novel, has a seemingly picture-perfect life, but when her daughter's best friend accidentally drowns in their pool and appears to Laurel in spirit form, things unravel quickly. Jackson's honey-sweet tones heat up into panic and confusion as everything Laurel depends on falls away. While set in the languid deep South, the pace is rapid. Jackson's reading keeps things brisk without going too swiftly. Jackson's excellent reading allows characters' voices to reveal much about their histories and personalities: Laurel's gentle but determined manner, her outrageously funny sister's sarcasm, the thick drawl of an impoverished girl visiting from Alabama. A brief interview with Jackson at the end offers some insight into the book's genesis and development and into her writing habits. Simultaneous release with the Grand Central hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 29). (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

On the heels of the successful Gods in Alabamaand Between, Georgia-both #1 BookSense picks-Jackson again reinvents the (Girls Raised in the South) novel. Quilt artist Laurel, her game programmer husband, David, and their 13-year-old daughter, Shelby, lead a seemingly charmed life in a serene Florida suburb. But when the ghost of a drowned girl awakens Laurel, the veneer of that life seems ready to crack beyond repair. Can Laurel trust her flamboyant, outspoken sister, Thalia, to help as old family secrets emerge with dizzying speed? With the appearance of a ghost on the first page, you'll feel compelled to race to the end, but slow down for Jackson's great descriptions-you'll be rewarded for the effort. Jackson illuminates not just the complexities of family love as a source of safety and support but also the complexities of danger and death. The life-affirming epilog provides satisfying closure; libraries will want to own all three novels. [See Prepub Alert, LJ11/15/07.]
—Rebecca Kelm

Kirkus Reviews
Ghosts, more figurative that literal, haunt Jackson's third novel (Between, Georgia, 2006, etc.). Laurel, who makes artistic quilts, and her computer geek husband, David, live with their 13-year-old daughter Shelby in Victorianna, a gated community in South Georgia near the Alabama line. One night, Laurel sees/dreams about the ghost of Shelby's best friend Molly, who is dripping wet. Laurel watches as Molly passes through her bedroom window and sinks to the bottom of Laurel's swimming pool. Laurel wakes screaming. In fact, Molly has drowned in what the police rule an accident. But Laurel has suspicions about a creepy neighbor. She is also terrified Shelby is somehow involved although Shelby swears she was asleep, as was her cousin Bet. Bet has been visiting for the summer, Laurel's pet charity case from the trailer-trash town that Laurel's mother escaped through marriage years ago. Using Bet's pathetic need for affection, Laurel pulls worrisome information from her and begins to track the truth about Molly's death. Lovably Aspergish David can't help, and Laurel's mother pretends never to see ugly truths, so Laurel, who has her own difficulty disturbing decorum, turns to her older sister Thalia, an actress who likes to live on the edge and has always found both Laurel's life in Victorianna and her marriage stultifying. With Thalia around, cracks begin to appear on the surface of Laurel's ever-so-controlled life. Thalia forces Laurel to confront problems in her marriage and to realize that the death of her Uncle Marty, her first "ghost," was not what it seemed. Laurel is meant to be the heroine but she's such a dolt, readers may not feel she deserves her happy ending after jumping toconclusions that turn out dangerously wrong. The tragic figure, Bet, gets short shrift, as if Jackson doesn't quite know what to do with her. An entertaining but shallow spin on a Southern Gothic.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446697828
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/26/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 542,361
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson, a native of the Deep South, has worked as an actor and an award-winning teacher, and is now a writer and a mother of two. Jackson lives with her husband and children outside of Atlanta.

Biography

During her trek from a tiny town in Alabama to a university in the big city of Chicago, Arlene Fleet makes a deal with God: If she agrees to never lie, never fornicate again, and never return to that little Alabama town, than God will agree to ensure that a certain corpse is never unearthed. Perhaps this is not the kind of deal to be made by a good southern girl, but Arlene Fleet isn't quite a good southern girl. She is, however, the central character in Joshilyn Jackson's breakthrough debut novel, Gods in Alabama.

Jackson wrote Gods in Alabama after a journey up north of her own. Much like Arlene, she was born in the South, and according to her official biography, "raised by a tribe of wild fundamentalists." Also like Arlene, Jackson eventually moved to Chicago, where she taught English at UIC. However, Arlene is no mere stand-in for the author. Although she is often asked if she based the character upon herself, Jackson is ready to admit that she does not have much in common with the promiscuous girl who may or may not be a murderer. In fact, when Arlene Fleet made her very first appearance in a short story titled "Little Dead Uglies," the narrator makes no bones about loathing her. Nevertheless, Jackson became fascinated with the character. "She wouldn't leave me alone," she explained to readersroom.com. "She's such a TINY part of that story. A few sentences. But every time I would go back to work on that story, she would kinda glitter at me... I KNEW she had a secret, and I knew she was something big, a novel waiting to happen. If only I had known what her secret was."

Jackson explored both the character and that secret in Gods in Alabama, and the results are a playful but dark dose of southern gothic humor. It also became Jackson's first published novel after two previous efforts failed to sell. Gods in Alabama more than makes up for any previous failures, though, as both a commercial and critical success and a No. 1 pick at Booksense.com.

Now Jackson, who is also an accomplished actor and playwright, is offering up her second novel, which once again finds the writer stirring up her southern heritage to create a sort of modern take on the infamous rivalry between the Hatfields and the McCoys. In Between, Georgia, Nonny Frett is caught between to feuding families: the Fretts, the family that provided her with a good southern upbringing after stealing her as a child, and the Crabtrees, the family that lost her and wants revenge. Once again, Jackson has crafted another unique and witty novel. Publishers Weekly has called Between, Georgia a "theatrical and well-paced Southern family drama" with "plenty of Southern sass." Jackson, for one, is quick to ensure those who were delighted by the one-of-a-kind voice that she established in Gods in Alabama that Between, Georgia will not disappoint. "It's a different book, but at the same time, I think it's pretty obvious I wrote it," she told southernlitreview.com. "It's that same odd blend of humor and violence."

Good To Know

Jackson's friends have accused her of being "dead inside" because she isn't particularly fond of music. However, that did not stop her from fronting a band and singing PJ Harvey tunes when she was a graduate student.

Before hitting pay dirt with Gods in Alabama, Jackson pursued a career in acting and even toured for a time with a dinner theater troupe.

As well as being a writer of novels and short stories, Jackson has also made a name for herself on the theater circuit, penning such plays as Another Snow White and Screwing Lazarus.

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Jackson:

"I get depressed if I don't have a little animal or two clotting up the house. Right now we have gerbils that my kids named Hotshot and Snickers. I like to pretend I got them for the kids, but the truth is, I like the little blighters myself and am the one who plays with them and feeds them and such most often. We also have an enormous one-eyed Maine Coon cat named Schubert. I would fear for the rodents, except Schubert is entirely too massive to lumber to the top of the table where the gerbil house sits. This is a very low number of pets for me. My husband thinks it is PLENTY of pets, but I secretly want to add a dog. And a horse. And some lizards...maybe a little chinchilla."

"I've always wanted to be a writer. My mother has a box full of books I wrote and published via the ‘Crayola and stapler' method."

"I can't remember a time when I couldn't read -- I've been doing it since before I had concrete memory. I learned accidentally before preschool by thieving my older brother's books and watching Sesame Street. I think that was one of the reason's I loved To Kill a Mockingbird so much. I first read it when I was a kid, and I identified strongly with Scout when she taught herself reading by sitting on Atticus's lap and looking at his newspapers.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 123 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(44)

4 Star

(37)

3 Star

(23)

2 Star

(14)

1 Star

(5)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 123 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    good "pool" book

    This story was not what I was expecting. Looking at the cover, it looked like a "pool" book, a little light summer read, but it turned out to be a great little mystery, not too heavy, not too light, just right for a summery read. I enjoyed the quirky characters and the jiggidy-jogs in the story. Keep em' coming, Joshilyn!

    12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Book by a Great Author

    I bought this book because of the interesting title and cover - once I read the first chapter I had a hard time putting the book down. This is a wonderful book! The characters were amazing and well rounded. Once I finished the book I immediately returned to B&N and found Joshilyn Jackson's other works (Gods in Alabama and Between, Georgia). You will not be disappointed with this author.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2010

    OK book

    Not one of my better book purchases. characters kind of boring or unrealistic, story line kind of boring - dragged on a bit in places - would not recommend or pass along this book -

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2010

    Slow read

    This book had a decent story line, but I had a hard time staying interested. The middle seemed to drag on. The main characters were developed but I found them unlikeable.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 4, 2009

    very good different type of story and writing

    I took this to the beach on vacation could not put it down, went right out after finishing and bought one of her other books read that and went for another. Not on vacation now so reading has slowed d/t required work reading! But I am sure the 3rd is just as fun as the 1st and second.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2009

    Different than I expected.

    The book started out great, then had some slow parts here and there, but ended well. I guess I was hoping for something more.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2010

    Good light reading

    It surprised me but overall I thought this was a good book. I was expecting more supernatural but ultimately it's a very small part of the book, mostly it's about relationships and the lengths we'll go to to protect the ones we love. It took me about 100 pages to get into it, but halfway through I couldn't put it down! The characters were well written and the writing was superb. I was worried that the ending would be drab, but it did surprise me! A great mix of relationships, mystery, and a hint of paranormal.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    Intriguing story

    This is a story of family dynamics and sisters' secrets, and I found it fascinating. The author weaves an intriguing story by giving the reader bits of information along the way that keep you guessing. I will be looking for more books by this author.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2009

    Amazing Must Read!

    Joshilyn Jackson did a magnificent job taking real life problems and blending them together with the unthinkable. This book kept me in suspense until the very end. The characters had so much personality and life to them (especially Thalia) that sometimes I would forget that they weren't real.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Southern gothic page turner

    The Girl Who Stopped Swimming is Joshilyn Jackson's third novel. After finishing this one at breakneck speed, I'll be hunting down the first two.

    Laurel has escaped her childhood and the family history in poverty stricken DeLop, Alabama. She's married to David, has a daughter Shelby and lives a comfortable life in a gated community. The ghosts have stopped following her. Until one night, when she sees the ghost of a young girl beckoning to her. She looks out the window and there is the dead girl - in her pool.

    Although they disagree strongly on many, many things, she calls on her actress sister Thalia to come and help her deal with this. As the sisters 'investigate', the past comes charging up behind them. Secrets long buried won't be kept quiet any longer.

    This is an absolute gem of a novel. Jackson's prose are captivating and unsettling at the same time.

    "But her house did not feel normal. It was silent and too large around her, as if it had been hollowed out. The wrongness in her yard had it's nose pressed against her glass doors, and she felt something small and feral scrabbling in her belly. Every time she thought she'd lose herself in her work, the something would run one spiky tooth along her stomach lining."

    The story is addicting. Can she really see ghosts? Hints of the past are eked out and I was reading as quickly as I could to piece it altogether. It's a mystery, but also a study in families and relationships and how the past affects the present.

    In the reading group guide and notes, the author notes that "at it's heart, this book is about poverty". I found this quite interesting. As well as the literal translation of fiscal poverty, emotional poverty plays a key role.

    This was a fantastic read for me.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    THIS ONE TAKES A CURVE

    THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING
    Joshilyn Jackson
    Grand Central Publishing Trade Paperback
    $13.99
    319 pages
    ISBN: 0-446-69782-6
    Reviewer: Annie Slessman

    Having grown up in the South I recognized instantly the words of Bet Clemmens. Unlike Laurel Hawthorne, main character of Joshilyn Jackson's new book, THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING, I didn't have to give a minutes thought to Bet's remarks. How many times did my mother say, "will you slow down, you talk so fast the words seem to melt into one another?" Laurel's mother had been raised in the Southern town of DeLop. A town where meth, drugs of all types and poverty seems to steal the lives of its residents. Laurel's mother is one of the few who has escaped the boundaries of DeLop. To pay for her freedom, Laurel, her sister, Thalia and their mother return each Christmas to DeLop with gifts to better the lives of those who still remain captive to this community.

    Carrying forth the tradition of her mother, Laurel takes in, for the summer, one of DeLop's young residents named Bet Clemmens. Bet is about the same age as Laurel's daughter, Shelby. The girls get along wonderfully and Bet finds herself not wanting to leave such a comfortable existence.

    Lauren sees ghosts. For instance, her Uncle Marty frequently visits her beside. Marty had been killed during what was deemed a hunting accident when Lauren was a small child. One night as Lauren is awaken from her sleep, she sees, not Marty but one of Shelby's friends, Molly, standing at her beside. Following Molly to the window she sees Molly lying face down in their swimming pool. When she realizes she is not dreaming, Lauren and her husband race downstairs to try to rescue Molly from the water. They are not successful and it is then that the story takes a swerve. Unable to handle things emotionally, Lauren beckons her sister, Thalia, to her home to help her deal with the loss of Molly and the mystery surrounding her death.

    This story takes us on a journey that tops many hilltops, takes ever curve and eventually leads the reader into the bowels of hell. Its surprise ending will have you gasping and afraid to turn the page.

    This is my first Joshilyn Jackson read. However, I have already placed an order for her two previous works, gods in Alabama and Between,Georgia. I will warn you before you buy this book, you will not be satisfied with just one Joshilyn Jackson read. You too, will be putting in orders for more of her work.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2013

    This book was good for the most part. The characters were well

    This book was good for the most part. The characters were well written, but at times the book dragged on and on and a little more than halfway through the book it became more captivating and started making more sense. I almost didn't finish it and now am glad I did.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Disappointed!!

    It sounds better than it really is!! I don't know if I expected too much, but this book fell flat. There seemed to be too much detail and backstory about the main character Laurel and her geeky computer hubby David. Their relationship was as terrible and unexciting as Thalia (her sister) described it. The author tried too hard in making it some whirlwind romance that could withstand the test of time. The real drama would have been the stories and turmoil between Laurel and Thalia...or Delop even!The book was very obvious. I could tell what was going on with Uncle Marty from the first page. The only surprises to me was why Thalia did what she did on the hunting trip with her daddy, and who was behind the murder. It was mediocre at best and not thrilling. There was not enough description in the book as a whole and could have been better. I think it was lacking in all departments. I felt like I kept waiting for it to "get better". I felt there was reference to things that never went anywhere...like all the mermaid crap. I also didn't see the point in even mentioning Laurels quilt making...sigh...really? Not every book is going to be a winner, I suppose! Boo.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 12, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    A rollicking tale that I never knew where it would land. This su

    A rollicking tale that I never knew where it would land. This superbly written mystery is peopled with off-beat characters who alternately wreck and fix their relationships. One supporting character was so over-the-top, she nearly stole the book. You can't go wrong with a Joshilyn Jackson title.

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  • Posted June 16, 2013

    Good Read

    I am a Joshilyn Jackson fan. This was a good read - but not my favorite of hers.....

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2013

    From the sound of it, I was expecting more ghost encounters, but

    From the sound of it, I was expecting more ghost encounters, but the story was entertaining in trying to guess the end result.  I would say that at times it became too heavy with family drama.  I found the character of Thalia to be one of the most annoying and horrible of characters though.  Too the point that I simply could not stand any parts of the book where she was present.   

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2013

    I am the girl that did not swimming

    I am an amazing swimmer probobly better thn a you my time gor a fifty free is thirty seconds please respond

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2012

    Book was semi-interesting but I found it very bizarre how Laurel

    Book was semi-interesting but I found it very bizarre how Laurel almost never expressed any sympathy about the dead child and rather than calling/visiting the family, sends her psychotic sister over to torture the mother further. I kept waiting and waiting for someone, anyone, to express some sympathy to the family, rather than worrying about their own child's tender feelings or obsessing over the shortcomings of the trashy hometown. I wondered if the author made Laurel have limited social skills and a lack of empathy to explain her relationship with her math geek husband. To me, it just made her seem narcissistic and clueless.

    The whole story with Uncle Marty was just strange and unexplained, was all of this angst over him exposing himself? Gross and abusive, yes, but not what the lead up had been. Finally, Thalia had to be one of the most obnoxious and unpleasant, as well as unrealistic characters, ever. Her habit of launching into a nasty, spiteful, prepared tirade every time she spoke was so annoying I wanted to reach through the pages and punch her myself. Maybe it is a geographical perspective, I am from the NW and have never felt at home in the South, though that is where my family is from, but a lot of things in this book unreasonably annoyed me.

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  • Posted June 29, 2012

    Great book!

    Another great one from Joshilyn Jackson! Enjoyed it very much!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2012

    No Great bizarre book!

    Surprises throughout!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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