Monday, April 29, 2013

Jackson Pearce Trifecta

I love horse races. Shiny coats tautly gleaming over powerful muscle, thundering hooves eating up the track and raw beauty. Horses awe me with their power--and even more so with their gentle nature despite their brute strength. I grew up on horses and love watching them race.

I do not, however, like gambling. I hate parting with my hard-earned money and pretending there's a science behind the victory. Sometimes luck has a hand in who wins and who loses. Sometimes history, experience and breeding do. Yet picking a winner is a gamble.


Picking the trifecta--now that is akin to separating a single raindrop from the ocean. It's why I don't bet.

Yet this weekend, I bet big and won. It started with a kind of skulky need to read something I wanted to read. With speech just wrapping up, I'd read a lot of what other people wanted me to read. This was my chance to read something for my own pleasure, a much  needed break after a demanding speech season.

Years ago, I'd read Jackson Pearce's Sisters Red and loved it. What I didn't love was the idea of reading the second novel in her fairytale retellings--Sweetly. The story of Hansel and Gretel had never intrigued me and so I had been turned off by the idea of even picking up this companion novel.

Grudgingly, I decided to give it a try, as no other prospects jumped out at me.

Without belaboring my point, I'll just say that I hit the Jackson Pearce trifecta. On Saturday--between curling hair and painting nails for my daughter's prom--I started reading Sweetly. On Sunday, I finished it and started Fathomless after cleaning up the backyard and putting out the patio furniture. This morning, after reading to the end of Pearce's Little Mermaid rewrite, I was like a crack addict waiting for her next hit. I picked up yet another Pearce novel and finished her contemporary novel, Purity, just before shuttling my boys to baseball.

My favorite of the three: Sweetly. Yeah, I know. And I was a snob about reading it for years. My loss. Suffice it to say, I LOVED the characters. Sophia broke my heart, while Samuel captured it. Gretchen was courageous and loving, while her brother Ansel was selfless and sweet. I hated the ending because Ms. Pearce made it hurt. I have half a mind to read it again, just to see if I can will the ending to change. To see if I can somehow wish this beloved, rag-tag family the happiness they deserve.

The most evocative: Fathomless. This dark novel is nothing like Disney's mermaid we all know and love. Lo is torn between two worlds and two souls as she tries to live in the present, remember her past and embrace her future. She is utterly tragic and beautiful in her quest to do right. And while I am not always a huge fan of stories told from different perspectives, Ms. Pearce did a masterful job of using it to create emotionally robust characters, rather than as a cheat to impart information the audience needed but otherwise wouldn't know.

Most relevant: Purity. I have a sixteen year-old daughter who is a big daddy's girl and the thought of those purity ceremonies and vows has always kind of creeped me out. Ms. Pearce handles it with humor and dignity. This novel took me about three hours to read, and even though the subject matter is heavy--death, sex, religion and integrity--the author doesn't weigh it down by getting all preachy. Instead, Shelby is a very real teen with very real teen concerns.

All in all, the most respectful thing I can say about Jackson Pearce's writing is that she writes realistic characters I care about and puts them into difficult situations where they have to act and react in ways that truly matter. Not to mention, her prose is down-right lyrical.

And the best thing: her fourth fairytale Cold Spell will be out soon. You can bet I'll be snapping that up the minute it gets published!

In fact, I think Jackson Pearce just may rounding the corner and taking over the lead as one of my favorite authors. To learn more about her or to check out her novels, please hop over to her website and get reacquainted with some of your favorite fairy tales.

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