REVIEW: A compelling debut novel by Holly Goddard Jones

Feb. 21, 2013 @ 03:02 PM

“The Next Time You See Me” by Holly Goddard Jones (Simon and Schuster, $24.99)

Go and Do

WHAT: Author reading of “The Next Time You See Me” by Holly Goddard Jones

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday (Feb. 22)

WHERE: The Regulator Bookshop, 720 Ninth St., Durham

 

Clear your schedule and get a comfortable chair to read “The Next Time You See Me” by Holly Goddard Jones.

The novel takes you for a suspenseful literary ride in a small Kentucky town in the fall of 1993, when factories were still open and most folks in town worked there.

Jones’ storytelling draws you in quickly with awkward eighth-grader Emily, who finds a dead body in the woods but doesn’t tell anyone. The novel then switches to a different character, her teacher, Susanna, an unsatisfied mother in a middling marriage. Susanna soon takes control as the most interesting character – or is she? - in a story that connects several townspeople. Susanna’s sister, Ronnie, who has gone missing, is certainly intriguing. And the town detective, Tony. And Wyatt, the loner factory worker.

Jones does a fantastic job of building each character to the point that you can see them in your mind’s eye, flaws and all. The reader really can’t be sure where each person’s story will lead. Someone who seems likeable at first changes. Someone who seems awful maybe isn’t so bad. As each chapter leads to a different character’s perspective, at first you want the last character back, but are quickly drawn into the next one, and the next.

You can feel the grit in their daily lives - in the air, in the crunch of the leaves, at the factory and in the angst at the school. There is misery and exposed secrets and violence – all interconnected in the Kentucky town bordering Tennessee. The story will stay with you.

Jones teaches creative writing at UNC Greensboro, and “The Next Time You See Me” shows she can practice what she preaches. Her book tour includes a visit to The Regulator Bookshop on Friday [Feb. 22]. This is only her first full-length novel. She previously wrote a short story collection, “Girl Trouble.” Her writings have appeared elsewhere as well, including “New Stories from the South.” This year she has received The Fellowship of Southern Writers’ Hillsdale Award for Fiction.

Jones paints a picture of a town you don’t necessarily want to live in, but is filled with people you’ve met. Jones’ debut novel will be added to the list of great North Carolina works.