JOSEY ROSE by Jane Wood


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Incest is luridly limned in this over-the-top first novel that’s more country kookster--lots of critters and wacky grandmas--than a serious take on a troubling subject. Presumably, the story told by narrator Josey Rose should engage and alarm, but it never does: The writing is too uneven, the plot too overwrought, and the characters more suited to a Beverly Hillbillies noir sitcom. After a melodramatic prologue, Josey begins his story in 1960, the year he was 11. Believing his mother to be dead, Josey lives with his father and Grandma Ru, who worries about space flights and glues pictures of thermostats into scrapbooks. Josey’s father links the steel beams for high-rises and as a hobby builds delicate models of ships in bottles, but when he drinks he gets mean—enough so that he not only destroys all his models and beats up on Josey, but then heads out to a deconsecrated chapel deep in the woods. It’s there one night that Josey sees his father there rape a beautiful young woman whom he learns later, visiting her himself, to be his cousin Lily. She wears strange clothes, fears the sun, at 13 had a baby--a son who reportedly died—and sculpts fungi gathered after dark. Josey’s smitten by Lily and as he grows older he tries to protect her, but drunken Dad, more a concept than a real character, chokes Grandma to death before the traumatized young woman, then hospitalizes her to keep his secret safe. The adult Josey springs Lily from hospital, after which they live together as lovers. When Lily tells Josey that his mother isn—t dead, a reunion with Mom complicates his life further: after she tells him the truth about Lily, his father, and himself, a confrontation ends in another death. But whatever the truth, Josey decides to stick with Lily. Underwhelming excess.

Pub Date: June 9th, 1998
ISBN: 0-684-83791-9
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1998