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  Library Journal Review

Leia, a self-proclaimed superhero-comics dork, narrates this light-dark Southern story of family, race, and belonging with affection, humor, and well-timed profanity, bound to please fans of the best-selling author's six previous novels (e.g., The Opposite of Everyone). The story opens with Leia's realization that she-a 38-year-old white woman in the male-dominated world of comic books-is pregnant after a one-night stand at a convention with a black fan of her work. Disruption continues when her stepsister's perfect life and her feisty 90-year-old grandmother's independent one break down in quick succession. To help, Leia takes her teen niece to Birchville, AL, where she spent childhood summers and where all (small-town) hell is about to break loose. VERDICT Both literary and women's fiction readers will appreciate Leia's smart/sassy narrative. Book clubs will find much to talk about in this multigenerational, Southern tale of sisters, friendship, and small-town life, including the author's signature quirky characters and deft touch with serious topics such as aging, race, and cultural identity. [See Prepub Alert, 1/18/17.]-Laurie -Cavanaugh, Thayer P.L., Braintree, MA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Booklist Review

Jackson's eighth novel is a compulsively readable and lamentably timely family drama set in Birchville, Alabama. Leia (like the princess) is a successful graphic novelist who, after a drunken escapade with an anonymous Batman at a fan convention, finds herself fetched up pregnant with a biracial baby at age 38. She returns to Birchville to take care of her elderly grandmother, Birchie, the granddaughter of the town's founder. Leia learns that Birchie, aided by her lifelong friend and housemate, Wattie, has been hiding a serious illness. When a gruesome discovery prompts a police investigation into her prominent family's history, Leia is compelled by circumstances to confront a series of uncomfortable and frequently ugly truths about her family and the South she grew up in versus the South her unborn child will experience. Readers will feel Leia's fierce determination to protect the family she loves and her child while she remains honest about the complexities of life in the South and her place within in it. A heavy premise, but the story is saved from mawkishness by Jackson's characteristic humor, absorbing characters, and candid depictions of messy families.--Szwarek, Magan Copyright 2010 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

Jackson (The Opposite of Everyone, 2016, etc.) has written another spirited page-turner set in a new South still haunted by the ghosts of the old.Leia, single at 38, writes popular graphic novels but is gun-shy with men. Following a boozy one-night stand at a comic-book convention, she has "fetched up pregnant" with a biracial child. Then she hears that her beloved 90-year-old grandma Birchie has slipped into dementia and is acting out: at church, Birchie has loudly, and lewdly, revealed what she knows about the new pastor's relationship with a (married) parishioner. Leia decides to take charge, driving from her home in Norfolk, Virginia, to the small town in Alabama where Birchie lives with her lifelong friend Wattie, a black woman whose mother was her family's housekeeper. Complications ensuenot least of which is the discovery of a trunk filled with the bones of someone who has met a violent end. There's a whiff of Southern Gothic here and plenty of sex, lies, and family secrets. (The author's fans will also recognize some elements from earlier novels). But Jackson is bighearted and, in the end, optimistic. She writes vivid, funny characters, and her voice is distinctive and authentic. She can also toss off amusing pop-culture references that make this narrative sound very au courant: Leia's stepsister's divorce "would be so perfectly done it would make Gwyenth Paltrow's conscious uncoupling look like a bar brawl." Jackson doesn't do trite. Even when Leia ruminates on race, the author frames things in a fresh way: "There was no such thing as mixed-race inAmerica....The whole country had called a mixed-race man our first black president.' " Perhaps the novel overreachesthe ending is a bit sober for what comes beforebut it's not a major flaw. A satisfying, entertaining read from an admired writer who deserves to be a household name. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
<p> With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality---the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are. </p> <p>Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs' weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.</p> <p>It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She's having a baby boy--an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old's life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel's marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she's been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.</p> <p>Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother's affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she's pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she's got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie's been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family's freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.</p>
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