Grown-Up Kind of Pretty (Jackson)

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty
Joshilyn Jackson, 2012
Grand Central Publishing
336 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780446582353

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty is a powerful saga of three generations of women, plagued by hardships and torn by a devastating secret, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of family.

Fifteen-year-old Mosey Slocumb-spirited, sassy, and on the cusp of womanhood-is shaken when a small grave is unearthed in the backyard, and determined to figure out why it's there. Liza, her stroke-ravaged mother, is haunted by choices she made as a teenager.

But it is Jenny, Mosey's strong and big-hearted grandmother, whose maternal love braids together the strands of the women's shared past—and who will stop at nothing to defend their future. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—February 27, 1968
Where—Fort Walton Beach, Florida, USA
Education—B.A., Georgia State University; M.A., University of Illinois
Awards—(see below)
Currently—lives in Decatur, Georgia

Joshilyn Jackson is the author of several novels, all national best sellers. She was born into a military family, moving often in and out of seven states before the age of nine. She graduated from high school in Pensacola, Florida, and after attending a number of different colleges, earned her B.A. from Georgia State University. She went on to earn an M.A. in creative writing from University of Illinois in Chicago.

Having enjoyed stage acting as a student in Chicago, Jackson now does her own voice work for the audio versions of her books. Her dynamic readings have won plaudits from AudioFile Magazine, which selected her for its "Best of the Year" list. She also made the 2012 Audible "All-Star" list for the highest listener ranks/reviews; in addition, she won three "Listen-Up Awards" from Publisher's Weekly. Jackson has also read books by other authors, including Lydia Netzer's Shine Shine Shine.

All of Jackson's novels take place in the American South, the place she knows best. Her characters are generally women struggling to find their way through troubled lives and relationships. Kirkus Reviews has described her writing as...

Quirky, Southern-based, character-driven...that combines exquisite writing, vivid personalities, and imaginative storylines while subtly contemplating race, romance, family, and self.

2005 - Gods in Alabama
2006 - Between, Georgia
2008 - The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
2010 - Backseat Saints
2012 - A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty
2013 - Someone Else's Love Story
2005 - Gods in Alabama
2006 - Between, Georgia
2008 - The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
2010 - Backseat Saints
2012 - A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty
2013 - Someone Else's Love Story
2016 - The Opposite of Everyone
2017 - The Almost Sisters

Jackson's books have been translated into a dozen languages, won the Southern Indie Booksellers Alliance's SIBA Novel of the Year, have three times been a #1 Book Sense Pick, twice won Georgia Author of the Year, and three times been shortlisted for the Townsend Prize. (Author's bio adapted from the author's website.)

Book Reviews
Jackson's signature style-the feisty, bighearted voice of Gods in Alabama and Backseat Saints-propels this funny, dark whodunit, where strong women who've made bad choices band together to come out on top.
Melissa Ruggieri - Atlanta Journal-Constitution

[There are] hundreds of moving parts in the machinery of Jackson's intricate mystery, all deliciously unraveled one tantalizing clue at a time.
Gena Webb - Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A quirky mystery that serves up a delicious blend of likeable characters, plot twists and life as seen through the eyes of three remarkable women in a Southern family, namely Mosey, Ginny, and Liza. The dialogue is authentic and the writing insightful and unexpectedly witty.
Larry Cox - Tucson Citizen

The Slocumb women suffer from an unfortunate curse: every 15 years something bad happens. Ginny gave birth to Liza when she was 15. And Liza had Mosey when she was 15. Now it’s Mosey who’s 15, and she’s nervous. But the curse strikes in a different form, bringing a stroke to Liza that renders her mute and crippled, leaving her husband “Big” to care for her. Wanting to put a pool in the yard for Liza’s water therapy, Ginny has a willow uprooted, unearthing the bones of a baby—Liza’s baby. This macabre discovery sends Mosey, Ginny, and Big in search of answers about the baby and Mosey’s identity. Their quest, told in alternating points-of-view among all main characters, uncovers an old feud between Liza and best friend Melissa, an illicit affair, the vengeance of the thwarted party, and drug addiction long hidden. Along the way Mosey puts her life in danger and learns a thing or two about family. Jackson’s newest (after Backseat Saints) is highly immersive, evoking the suffocation of rural Mississippi and using a teen pregnancy mystery to create a compelling page-turner. While Jackson doesn’t entirely avoid clichés, the care that she’s taken in developing the relationships between the Slocumb women makes up for it.
Publishers Weekly

Jackson (Backseat Saints) has written an unusual Southern family saga revolving around three generations of lonely, hardscrabble Slocumb women. Grandmother Ginny is the glue that holds them together when her ex-drug addict daughter, Liza, has a severe stroke, leaving her voiceless except for a few vowel sounds. Fifteen-year-old granddaughter Mosey is the same age her mother and grandmother were when they had their daughters, but Mosey isn't like her forebears; she's scarcely been kissed by a boy. When Ginny decides to pull out the old willow tree in the backyard to make room for a pool to use in rehabilitating Liza, a shallow grave is uncovered, revealing a small skeleton dressed in tattered baby clothes and unleashing a series of events for which Liza seems to have an explanation—but she can't tell. The story is told in the alternating voices of the women as the mystery unfolds. Verdict: Liza, as the unreliable narrator, is used to perfection in this warm family story that teeters between emotional highs and lows, laughter and tears. Book groups will eat this up. —Stacy Alesi, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., Boca Raton, FL
Library Journal

(Starred review.) Mesmerizing tale of a family coping with the revelation of a secret that will change their lives.... Jackson's most absorbing book yet, a lush, rich read with three very different but equally compelling characters at its core.

Jackson (Backseat Saints, 2010, etc.) sticks with her specialty—plucky Southern women who overcome male ill treatment from their past—in this novel about a grandmother, daughter and granddaughter who confront a suddenly uncovered family secret.... Snappy dialogue with a Southern twang, spiritual uplift and undeniably likable characters—"Quirky Cute" at its best.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. One of the opening scenes in A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty depicts Tyler Baines chopping down the Slocumb willow tree. What does this tree symbolize for Big? For Liza? For Mosey?

2. On page 70, Mosey realizes she isn’t who she thought she was. At first, she feels liberated. Then she feels confused and lost. How is she like Liza and Big? What makes her different? Do you think a child takes on traits like compassion, humor, and good sense from her biological parents, or do you think that she learns these from the people who raise her?

3. Several men in this novel cheat on their spouses (Coach, Lawrence), but the women cheat on one another in a different way. What kind of emotional betrayals show up in their friendships, and in their families? Who do you think is the most loyal person in this story?

4. Though Liza and Melissa were inseparable when they were young, Big believes that Noveen was a better friend to Liza than Melissa ever was. Patti turns out to be a wonderful friend to Mosey. What have the Duckins women given to Liza and Mosey? How was Melissa different?

5. One theme in A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty is belonging. On page 224, Big says, “Bogo wasn’t the only stray that Mosey had adopted for us all recently.” Who do you think are the “strays” in this story? When do they find a home?

6. When Mosey enters Liza’s tree house and sees her old Moomin books covered in Magic Marker, she says, “If I had doubted for a second this place was Liza’s, I didn’t doubt it now” (p. 245). Have you ever found a secret place or a secret box that belonged to someone you love? What part of this person did you find there?

7. Was Big smart to keep the details of her family crisis from Lawrence? If she had shared more with him, do you think he could have helped her, or protected Mosey?

8. Did Liza do the right thing by taking Mosey from her mother when she was small? Would you still feel that way if Mosey had been a Duckins or a Richardson instead? Why?

9. Big and Liza are determined to keep Mosey from getting too close to boys. Do you think they’re overreacting? What would you do to keep your daughter from making the same mistakes you made?

10. When something bad happens, Big, Liza, and Mosey often respond with action—though sometimes their approaches aren’t quite ethical. Does Liza break Lawrence’s ex-wife’s plates on purpose, or was it an accident? Did you enjoy it a little, since Sandy cheated on Lawrence and lashed out at Big? Do you think Claire Richardson was at all justified in her attacks on Liza? On Big? Do you blame her less because she lost both her daughters? Though it was wrong of Big to throw bricks at the church’s windows, do you think it was justified, given how she was treated by the church community? How does knowing the pain each character has been through change the way you respond to her actions?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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