Picks and Pans Review: The View from Here
This appealing first novel puts a fresh spin on a familiar tale. On a moon-drenched Halloween in the 1950s, Anna Anderson Thomas, a mother of five in rural Mississippi, conceives a baby she cannot keep. Times are hard: Her husband, the gruff, bow-legged J.T., is fired from the local mill; Anna's job as a maid ends when her employers move. Only the couple's brooding teenage son, Junior, earns a living wage. For five months, Anna conceals her pregnancy. She shares her fears, memories and dreams with the unborn child she intuits will be a daughter and writes letters to a childhood friend who went north. Unless Anna defends her nest, the child will be raised by J.T.'s barren sister, a grating, self-important preacher's wife.
Jackson crafts Anna's odyssey from voicelessness to authority with daring, assigning much of the narrating duty to the unborn baby. The result, with nods to works by Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, is a triumph. (Pocket, $22)