Jackson’s debut novella tells the story of a family’s horrifying secret.
The Jacobs’ curse began with Lidia, an Arkansas farm girl who was raped by her cousin Frank when she was 12 years old. Frank, himself a product of incestuous rape, was beaten nearly to death by Lidia’s father. After his recovery, however, Lidia’s parents eventually grant his request to marry Lidia, who, fearing that no other man will ever want her, has since given birth to Frank’s son. Frank moves Lidia and the baby into the cold wilderness of Wisconsin, where he opens a furniture store and continues to rape his young wife. Lidia gives Frank two more children and comes to terms with her lot via newfound religiosity. She even finds a shred of romance with Michael, one of Frank’s employees. Things continue on until one night, while Lidia and Frank are at a Christmas party, when their oldest son, James, rapes and murders their youngest daughter, Lia, and frames the crime on their middle child, sickly Edgar. Lidia falls apart, Edgar is imprisoned, and James continues to walk freely; as further crimes are committed by her descendants, Lidia “could plainly see a curse traveling through the generations.” The novella is extremely graphic, both in terms of the brutal, recurring depictions of rape and the surrounding violence. Readers may wonder why, especially when it becomes apparent that there will be no real emotional or artistic payoff. While Lidia is a sympathetic character (if only for the horrors that define her life), her simplistic rationale for the happenings around her (curses, demons, inherited sin) offer no closure for the reader. What’s more, her worldview seems to be enforced by the author, who dresses the novella in supernatural trappings: the frame narrative involves a medium who communes with the dead, and Frank narrates several portions of the story from hell.
A brutal, off-putting
story of generational violence.