A sensitive musician from the wrong side of Winnipeg, Jolene hits bottom before finally making peace with her family’s wounded past.
Sixteen-year-old Jolene, named after the Dolly Parton song, moves through the Canadian winter in a state of depression. She is a resourceful young woman who attends lectures at the local university even as she risks flunking out of high school for continually skipping classes. A talented composer from a musical family, she cleans up after her karaoke-singing mother’s drunken friends and misses her older brother, Matt, who set off with his guitar in the middle of the night under mysterious circumstances. When she finds a job washing dishes at a local bar and makes friends with an older girl who introduces her to mosh pits, the careful barriers she has built against her feelings begin to break down, and only then does the reader understand the full extent of her loss. Decter’s debut novel uses artful language and the frozen northern landscape to hint at tragedy even as the plot is withholding. Especially touching, a kind teacher plays a role in Jolene’s healing. Jolene and her family are white; her mother’s best friend is Ojibwa; and the author alludes to historical and present-day inequities in the community.
A tender story about the love found in an imperfect, working-class family. (Fiction. 14-18)