Miss Jane: A Novel (Hardcover)

Miss Jane: A Novel By Brad Watson Cover Image

Miss Jane: A Novel (Hardcover)


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July 2016 Indie Next List

“At first, I was uncomfortable reading about the life Jane Chisolm has to lead due to a genital birth defect and assumed that I would be sad for her throughout the book, but this is so beautifully written and unsentimental in its depiction of Jane's quiet strength and courageous acceptance of her life that I fell in love with her quite quickly. While all the supporting characters have their own peculiarities, they are tender and endearing to Jane and that helped me to understand how she endured and was loved so fully. Everyone should read this extraordinary book and feel, as I did, the joy of this remarkable woman.”
— Nancy Banks (E), City Stacks Books and Coffee, Denver, CO

Longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction: Astonishing prose brings to life a forgotten woman and a lost world in a strange and bittersweet Southern pastoral.

Since his award-winning debut collection of stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men, Brad Watson has been expanding the literary traditions of the South, in work as melancholy, witty, strange, and lovely as any in America.

Now, drawing on the story of his own great-aunt, Watson explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural, early-twentieth-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that would stand in the way of the central "uses" for a woman in that time and place: sex and marriage. From the highly erotic world of nature around her to the hard tactile labor of farm life, from the country doctor who befriends her to the boy who loved but was forced to leave her, Miss Jane Chisolm and her world are anything but barren.

The potency and implacable cruelty of nature, as well as its beauty, is a trademark of Watson’s fiction. In Miss Jane, the author brings to life a hard, unromantic past that is tinged with the sadness of unattainable loves, yet shot through with a transcendent beauty. Jane Chisolm’s irrepressible vitality and generous spirit give her the strength to live her life as she pleases in spite of the limitations that others, and her own body, would place on her. Free to satisfy only herself, she mesmerizes those around her, exerting an unearthly fascination that lives beyond her still.

Brad Watson (1955–2020) was the author of two critically acclaimed novels, The Heaven of Mercury and Miss Jane, and two collections of stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men and Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives. His work has been recognized by the short list and long list of the National Book Award, the International Dublin Literary Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Great Lakes New Writers Award, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award in Fiction (twice), the Southern Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction, a National Endowment of the Arts Grant in Fiction, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Harper Lee Award, and the Award in Letters granted by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He taught creative writing at Harvard University, the University of Alabama, and the University of Wyoming, Laramie.
Product Details ISBN: 9780393241730
ISBN-10: 0393241734
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: July 12th, 2016
Pages: 288
Language: English
Gorgeous…A writer of profound emotional depths.
— New York Times Book Review

[The] complexity and drama of Watson’s gorgeous work here is life's as well: Sometimes physical realities expand us, sometimes trap; sometimes heroism lies in combating our helplessness, sometimes in accepting it. A writer of profound emotional depths, Watson does not lie to his reader, so neither does his Jane. She never stops longing for a wholeness she may never know, but she is determined that her citizenship in the world, however onerous, be dragged into the light and there be lived without apology or perfection or pity.
— Amy Grace Loyd - New York Times Book Review

Watson infuses the story with curiosity, uncertainty, and, not unlike Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex, a certain wildness…The book plays on the tongue like an oyster—first salty, then cold—before slipping away to be consumed and digested.

— Aditi Sriram - Washington Post

Watson has done something extraordinary here. This is not grit-lit...But it is Southern literature, nevertheless: fresh, new, without cliché. Watson may be our best.
— Don Noble - Alabama Writers' Forum

[Jane’s] fearless acceptance of what sets her apart is profoundly human, and her lifelong struggle to understand her place in the world reflects the intricate workings of our own mysterious hearts.
— Gina Webb - Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A story worth telling even as it breaks your heart.
— Amy Brady - Chicago Review of Books

An exceptionally well written book. The prose was beautiful and the novel had a gentleness about it...I loved this book for its simplicity and would highly recommend it.
— Meredith Kelly - Luxury Reading

Miss Jane is an especially timely novel for right now, when so much of our turmoil is dependent on how we view the Other, whether it be because of race, sexuality, religion, or where someone was born. It’s also a novel that thrums with beauty, melancholy, and desire.

— Silas House - Salon

One of the most spot-on, most poetic renderings of Southern vernacular this side of Charles Portis. In his hands, Miss Jane becomes an epic of a small survivor. As with fellow Mississippian William Faulkner, Watson's humble characters prevail because they endure.

— Ben Steelman - StarNews

Miss Jane is a beautifully written, great-hearted and at times heart-breaking novel about decent but wounded people trying to make their way in the world. Watson’s creations could easily become mere caricatures in a lesser writer’s hands, but he never condescends to them or their plights, especially Miss Jane herself, who dances despite knowing that the dance and all that it represents 'was something with no long life ahead.' Miss Jane takes its readers beyond the usual levels of a novel’s power and into the sublime.

— Ron Rash, author of The Cove

Exquisitely written. Miss Jane is an artistic triumph, a novel that will linger inside you as long as your own memories do. Brad Watson’s gifts are immense.

— Andre Dubus III, author of Dirty Love

Miss Jane is one of the quieter, more beautiful books I’ve read in years…Set in rural Mississippi, it’s a story of an isolated woman who makes meaning and finds beauty in her circumscribed world.

— Emily Nemens, author of The Cactus League

Sometimes a novel comes along that changes the lives of those who read it. Brad Watson’s Miss Jane is that kind of novel. Watson takes as his inspiration the studied care of Gustave Flaubert. Yet his plaintive, intelligent, spirit-riven portrait of Jane Chisolm exceeds mere inspiration. Watson has become our Flaubert.  With its gleanings of attainment and sorrow, Miss Jane is that beautiful—and profound.

— Alyson Hagy, author of Boleto

Calmly, quietly, with deceptive simplicity, Brad Watson’s moving, McCuller-esque tale brings to life a most unusual woman, finding a most unusual grace.
— Andrea Barrett, author of Archangel

Like Lars Gustafsson’s “Greatness Strikes Where It Pleases,” Miss Jane is both winning and big-hearted in its embrace of and appreciation for what seems to be disabling difference. Its young protagonist is brave enough and wise enough to make the best sort of ongoing accommodation with her own isolating strangeness in a world that can’t offer much by way of support beyond discretion and tolerance, and one of this book’s great pleasures is the flowering of her progression from loneliness to a new understanding of her place within but apart from creation.

— Jim Shepard, author of The Book of Aron

Miss Jane is a novel of majestic empathy, an immaculate conjuring of a woman born strangely formed, her consequent inability to be sexually intimate giving her access to infinitely tender erotic witness. Readers have Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Gustav Flaubert’s Emma Bovary, Harper Lee’s Scout – to these and other immortal women of literature, we can now add Brad Watson’s divine beacon of love, Miss Jane.

— Melissa Pritchard, author of Palmerino and A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness, and Write

If asked, I could quote quite a few passages from each of Brad Watson’s previous books. I am, in other words, a fan of long standing. So please know I’m not blowing hot air when I say that in the stunning MISS JANE, this supremely talented writer has created his finest and most surprising work to date. I will not forget these characters, or their story, or this richly evoked place. Wise, generous and beautifully written, Watson’s new novel is a treasure.
— Steve Yarbrough, author of The Realm of Last Chances

Brad Watson deserves applause not only for capturing a slice of the American South of a century ago but also for managing to inhabit convincingly the consciousness of a woman left from birth in a kind of gender limbo.  It was a pleasure to ride the tide of his artful and efficient sentences through this unusual tale.
— Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate of the United States