Inspired by the life of Watson’s own great-aunt, this is the story of Miss Jane Chisolm, a woman whose life was shaped and limited by a congenital anomaly that was little-understood in her lifetime. It is a beautiful story of quiet dignity in hard, unromantic times.
Since his award-winning debut collection of stories, ‘Last Days of the Dog-Men’, Brad Watson’s work has been as melancholy, witty, strange and lovely as any in America. Inspired by the true story of his own great-aunt, he explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural early 20th-century Mississippi with a genital anomaly that would stand in the way of the central ‘uses’ for a woman in that time and place – namely, sex and marriage.
From the country doctor who adopts Jane to the hard tactile labour of farm life, from the sensual and erotic world of nature around her to the boy who loved but was forced to leave her, the world of Miss Jane Chisolm is anything but barren. Free to satisfy only herself, she mesmerises those around her, exerting an unearthly fascination that lives beyond her still.
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“A bittersweet southern pastoral, the story of a forgotten woman written with unearthly beauty. If Raymond Carver and Flannery O’Connor had a child, it would be Brad Watson.”
“‘Miss Jane’ covers a quiet, often solitary lifetime enriched by the unfettered outdoors, the tough routine of farm life, and the ache of unconsummated love. Watson’s characters are mentally dexterous in spite of their physical hardship. The book plays on the tongue like an oyster – first salty, then cold – before slipping away to be consumed and digested.”
“This proud, gentle novel shimmers with a subtle defiance, a near-physical need to celebrate a woman who lived against the odds.”