I had read, and enjoyed, Jackson's Between, Georgia; so, upon hearing that she had written a new book, I immediately placed a hold request at the library. While I wasn't disappointed and found the plot compelling, the tone of The Girl Who Stopped Swimming is much darker than that of its predecessor.
Laurel Hawthorne thought she had eluded the ghosts that haunted her, but after 13 specter-free years, she abruptly awakens in the middle of the night to find the spirit of a drowned girl in her bedroom and the body of her daughter's best friend floating in the swimming pool. Laurel is convinced she sees a shadowy figure run from the yard. Concluding that a neighbor with suspicious habits was the shadow and that he was somehow involved in Molly's death, Laurel sets out to prove her hypothesis with the aid of her free-spirited, but acidly honest, sister, Thalia. She also suspects that her daughter Shelby knows more that she is telling. Intertwined with Molly's drowning are memories of Laurel's uncle Marty, shot by her father on a hunting trip.
As in Between, Georgia, Jackson highlights the chasm separating southern social classes. The impoverished "white trash" are both to be pitied and feared. Her portrayal of Laurel's mother's hometown, DeLop, shows rotten roots that the family has tried to ignore. Ignorance and want. Secret upon secret, fortified with steady denial, has created a fragile illusion of family stability.
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming is a mystery, a domestic drama, and a social portrayal.
Jackson considers the question of nature versus nurture in both books. With the character of Bet Clemmens, a young cousin visiting for the summer, we see the damage caused by environment.
Yes, this book is a page-turner, but after the mysteries were solved, the characters and the questions remained.