Author Brad Watson delves into his family history to write a story based around his great-aunt and the challenges she faced as a woman born with a genital defect in the early part of the 20th century. The country doctor in rural Mississippi who delivers Jane has never seen anything like her defect, and he isn't sure she'll live. But she does, managing to thrive despite her incurable incontinence, inability to bear children, and other issues. Puberty and adulthood bring new problems, but Jane perseveres with an unshakable confidence and inner strength that only serve to further mark her as different from those around her. The doctor remains a central part of her life, providing guidance and support when everyone else around Jane fails her.
Philosophical and pragmatic by turns, Watson paints a bleak picture of what prospects a girl raised shortly before the Great Depression had in rural Mississippi. Those prospects narrow when the girl in question is afflicted with a defect like Jane's, which people in her rural town neither understand nor sympathize with. Jane's story is even more poignant knowing it is based on a real woman's struggles. The narrative revolves around her independence and self-reliance as she resourcefully strives to lead a normal life within the limitations of her condition. The book also gives striking insight into what life was like during the Great Depression, where we see the struggle to make ends meet both on farms like the one Jane grew up on and in cities, where she ends up with her sister later in life. Readers who enjoy Southern gothic novels with lyrical writing and great sense of time and place will likely enjoy Miss Jane.
Reviewed by ba, 12/16. Other reviews by ba.