Miss Jane

Written by Brad Watson
Review by Holly Faur

This is the story of Miss Jane Chisolm, a girl born in rural Mississippi with a rare genital defect that hinders most traditional practices expected of a woman; but Jane proves she is anything but conventional. Inspired by the life of his great-aunt, Brad Watson vividly illustrates the span of Jane’s struggles and longings as she explores the peculiar and esoteric beauty of the world around her.

I was immediately captivated by Jane, and Brad Watson’s voice effortlessly narrates her story with prose that is both simple and elegant. Life is hard for Jane: her mother all but disowns her, leaving Jane’s care to her older sister, Grace, and her father, though he tries to be kind, struggles to keep their farm aloft during the Great Depression. Jane knows she is different from other girls, and despite the friendship of the local doctor, who strives to answers her many questions, she often feels isolated. Children laugh when she tries to go to school, so she studies on her own. She loves once, only for the boy to be sent away. Her mother and sister seem to despise her in turn, and her father’s drinking had begun to twist his mind. But instead of turning bitter and angry at life, Jane’s insatiable curiosity and imagination seem to free her to be someone uniquely beautiful and unfettered. This was a truly absorbing read.