'As unexpectedly beguiling as it is affecting.' Daily MailSince his award-winning debut collection of stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men, Brad Watson's work has been as melancholy, witty, strange, and lovely as any in America. Inspired by the true story of his own great-aunt, he explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural, early-twentieth-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that would stand in the way of the central "uses" for a woman in that time and place - namely, sex and marriage.From the country doctor who adopts Jane to the hard tactile labor of farm life, from the sensual and erotic world of nature around her to the boy who loved but was forced to leave her, the world of Miss Jane Chisolm is anything but barren. Free to satisfy only herself, she mesmerizes those around her, exerting an unearthly fascination that lives beyond her still.
The acclaimed author of Last Days of the Dog-Men and The Heaven of Mercury brings to life a forgotten woman and a lost world in a strange and bittersweet pastoral; a life of quiet nobility and dignity lived against the background of the American century. For readers of Lori Lansens' The Girls, Fannie Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and Robert Seethaler's A Whole Life.
Long-listed for Wellcome Trust Book Prize 2017.
Miss Jane is courageous, resilient and enquiring; her parents are troubled souls, but loving. That said, Watson doesn't succumb to sentimentality ... With the woods and fields of Jane's rural home seeming to cast a subtle enchantment on her life, hers is a history that is as unexpectedly beguiling as it is affecting. Daily Mail A bittersweet southern pastoral, the story of a forgotten woman written with unearthly beauty. If Raymond Carver and Flannery O'Connor had a child, it would be Brad Watson. -- A. M. Homes, 'Best books of 2016' Guardian [Watson's] sensuous prose eases its way through vivid, deliberate scenes, rich with profound meaning ... Convincing, occasionally shocking and often overwhelming ... The brutality of human existence and its random injustices are among Watson's themes. But the harshness and candour are countered by interludes of extraordinary beauty ... It is a novel that acquires immense stature as the narrative settles down into what it is: an extraordinary study of character, not just of Jane but also, more importantly and, perhaps, unexpectedly, of the people around her ... This proud, gentle novel shimmers with a subtle defiance, a near-physical need to celebrate a woman who lived against the odds. -- Eileen Battersby Irish Times The complexity and drama of Watson's gorgeous work here is life's as well: Sometimes physical realities expand us, sometimes trap; sometimes heroism lies in combating our helplessness, sometimes in accepting it. A writer of profound emotional depths, Watson does not lie to his reader, so neither does his Jane. She never stops longing for a wholeness she may never know, but she is determined that her citizenship in the world, however onerous, be dragged into the light and there be lived without apology or perfection or pity. New York Times Miss Jane covers a quiet, often solitary lifetime enriched by the unfettered outdoors, the tough routine of farm life, and the ache of unconsummated love. Watson's characters are mentally dexterous in spite of their physical hardship. The book plays on the tongue like an oyster - first salty, then cold - before slipping away to be consumed and digested. Washington Post In all its verisimilitude, Miss Jane is painful and hopeful in almost equal measure, a story worth telling even as it breaks your heart. Chicago Review of Books [An] ambitious, touching novel -- Editor's Choice New York Times Exquisitely written ... life in all of its unsentimental and symphonic complexity ... Miss Jane is an artistic triumph, a novel that will linger inside you as long as your own memories do. Brad Watson's gifts are immense. -- Andre Dubus III Miss Jane is both winning and big-hearted in its embrace of and appreciation for what seems to be a disabling difference. One of its great pleasures is its young protagonist's flowering from loneliness to a new understanding of her place within creation. -- Jim Shepard A beautiful portrait of a young girl trying to navigate a difficult life - and an honest story that will bring you to tears more than once. Associated Press Brad Watson has been an aspiring movie star, a garbage collector, a digger of ditches, a bartender, a professor, and much more... He can now add masterful novelist to that list ... [Watson's] first novel, The Heaven of Mercury, slayed the critics, garnering praise from practically all corners ... firmly establishing Watson's place as a major American writer ... Miss Jane ... takes Watson's writing to new heights ... Miss Jane is an especially timely novel for right now, when so much of our turmoil is dependent on how we view the Other, whether it be because of race, sexuality, religion, or where someone was born. It's also a novel that thrums with beauty, melancholy, and desire. Salon Brad Watson's eloquently homespun second novel, Miss Jane ... His 'country folk' are complex and vulnerable, their stoicism and outer coldness a response to events beyond their control... [Jane's] fearless acceptance of what sets her apart is profoundly human, and her lifelong struggle to understand her place in the world reflects the intricate workings of our own mysterious hearts. Atlanta Journal-Constitution Watson's accomplishment here is a marvel ... Miss Jane demonstrates that through the act of imagination we can enter into another person's soul. Such imagination, though, requires ignoring boundaries and limits - including the conventions of gendered genres and gender norms - so that we can fully offer ourselves to the world of love. Jackson Clarion Ledger [A] tender and affecting novel National Book Review Brad Watson's Miss Jane; a bittersweet southern pastoral, the story of a forgotten woman written with unearthly beauty. If Raymond Carver and Flannery O'Connor had a child, it would be Brad Watson -- AM Homes Guardian Using language that is both candid and askew, Watson describes the quiet, often solitary life of a girl born in 1915 in rural Mississippi with a genital defect Washington Post I really admired Brad Watson's limpid novel Miss Jane about a woman born with an irreparable and humiliating physical anomaly who manages to fashion a rich and enigmatic life despite all odds. -- Tim Winton Financial Review (Australia)
Brad Watson teaches creative writing at the University of Wyoming, Laramie. His first collection, Last Days of the Dog-Men, won the Sue Kaufman Award for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; his first novel, The Heaven of Mercury, was shortlisted for the National Book Award, and his second story collection Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives was shortlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. 'Watson's talent is singular, truly awesome; he reminds me of Raymond Carver, Flannery O'Connor, Chris Offutt in his bravery, his unflinching willingness to look at what might set others running.' A.M. Homes 'Superb ... Watson ... has a great heart, and this great heart has made him a great writer.' Independent