Born to a sharecropper family of the rural South in 1915, it is soon known that Jane Chisolm has a birth defect that likely may have a life-long effect on the child. This, along with accompanying challenges of poverty, isolation, and a lack of schooling, are offset by certain other traits and conditions: Jane is bright, with a native poise and independent mind, and is surrounded by nature and animals. Brad Watson creates a vivid, colorful atmosphere about a certain time and place in a way that is magical. Likewise, his characters, especially Miss Jane—an unforgettable girl and woman with a great, heroic spirit—also come to life in all the peculiarities and frailties of their humanity. The novel is stunning in its tenderness and originality.— From Richard's 2016 Picks
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 and a Washington Post Best Book of the Year
"Gorgeous…A writer of profound emotional depths." —New York Times Book Review
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. Drawing on the true story of his great-aunt, he explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural, early-twentieth-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that excludes her from the roles traditional for a woman of her time and place and frees her to live her life as she pleases. With irrepressible vitality and generosity of spirit, Miss Jane mesmerizes those around her, exerting an unearthly fascination that lives beyond her still.
About the Author
Brad Watson (1955—2020) taught creative writing at the University of Wyoming, Laramie. His first collection, Last Days of the Dog-Men, won the Sue Kauffman Award for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts & Letters; his first novel, The Heaven of Mercury, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and his Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
Watson infuses the story with curiosity, uncertainty, and, not unlike Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex, a certain wildness.
— Aditi Sriram - Washington Post
This is a pine knot of a novel, hard and durable, and the sap it leaches is mercy.
— Jonathan Miles - Garden and Gun
A story worth telling even as it breaks your heart.
— Amy Brady - Chicago Review of Books
[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
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
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
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
I want to state this as clearly as I can: I believe Miss Jane to be a masterpiece of American literature. It is as remarkable as any book to ever come out of the South.
— M.O. Walsh - The Paris Review
As Watson arcs through the story of Jane’s life in sensitive, beautifully precise prose, we are both absorbed and humbled.
— Library Journal (starred review)
A well-written portrait of a person whose rich inner life outstrips the limits of her body.
— Kirkus Reviews