Joshilyn Jackson’s “Between, Georgia” reminds us that we are not lonely people. No matter where our lives take us, our families will follow. When we meet our narrator, Nonny Jane, she is recounting the story of her birth and simultaneously introducing us to a small town family feud that will grow up with her. Born a distinctly red-headed Crabtree, Nonny comes to belong to the Frett family whose members include three dark-haired, thick-skinned sisters: Bernese, the town matriarch, and her twin siblings Genny and Stacia. It is Stacia, born def and destined to lose her eye sight by middle age, who decides that the Frett family will raise Nonny.
Nonny is surrounded by distinct and vibrant characters like the love-starved Ona Crabtree, constantly yearning to play her entitled role of grandma, and Jonno, Nonny’s on-again-off-again excuse of a husband. At the same time, Jackson introduces us to Stacia’s world, a fascinating realm of detail and routine, and one yet unconquered by a lack of hearing and vision. When our characters are around Stacia, no moment (be it pleasant or unpleasant) is left unsaid – rather it is reiterated with signs spelled out into the palms of her hands. This reverence to translation finds characters re-interpreting a world with distinctly un-interpretable situations.
In addition to vivid characters, Nonny’s voice is strong and sardonic throwing out thoughts like, “What man wants a woman with one and a half mothers, one def-blind and the other so neurotic she was less than four baby steps from flat crazy,” and “The little red Crabtree who lived in my blood had woken and was running wild under everything the Fretts had tried to raise me to be.” Jackson’s phrasing and syntax are enough to make anyone remember what makes a great storyteller so much of a pleasure to follow along with.
In between Athens and Atlanta, the seen and the unseen, the Fretts and the Crabtrees, two mothers and their daughters, there is Between, Georgia — it’s here that Jackson invites us to leave behind the notion of feeling isolated and alone.