Missjane2 by Brad Watson

Young Southern women such as Scout by Harper Lee or Zora Neale Hurston’s Janie Crawford by Zora Neale Hurston remain some of our most compelling and intriguing protagonists, while Brad Watson’s novel takes an analogous tack with his heroine Jane “Janie” Chisolm who cannot marry due to a birth defect, thus creating a tale of loneliness, longing, center and periphery, beauty and ugliness all within its pages.

At age 19, Jane is attending state university on scholarship, studying history. Her natural precocity quickly become evident to Professor P who places her into his class instead of Alice’s study group; making a play for Jane and eventually seducing her.

Jane struggles not only to reconcile her physical relationship with reality; intellectually as well as physically she’s confused about its implications and healthiness for herself and future plans.

Meads’s prose is brilliantly postmodern, rich with linguistic tricks and filled with self-awareness. Her narrator acts like an angry Greek chorus that Jane does not yet possess. Meads’s characters possess surprising complexity whether delving into sexual politics or discussing complex issues such as race, class and gender relations; her book serves as a welcome counterpoint to recent campus novels written from an instructor’s point of view.