Born to a Mississippi farming family, the youngest girl whose older brothers will soon decamp to ranch in Wyoming, Jane is born different on the outside. But inside, she is filled with curiosity and verve, and she’s hard working too. Because of her difference, she’ll probably never have a life with a man, but that doesn’t stop her from befriending a neighbor boy, and it doesn’t stop her from schooling, at least for a bit. Her quiet, hard-drinking father knows her potential but he is trapped by his own demons, while her self-absorbed sister uses her for her own ends. The local doctor hopes he can one day fix her, and through that relationship grows a powerful inter-generational friendship. Miss Jane is a quiet book, but it’s also transfixing, sort of like Stoner with a bit of a Southern lilt, and a healthy dose of Western solitude.— Daniel Goldin
This is a compassionately portrayed story of a young woman born with a rare genital disorder that renders her incapable of fulfilling the early 20th century feminine roles of marriage and motherhood. Though her parents are unable to full cope with their daughter's condition, it is the steadfastly kind support of the doctor who delivered Jane that results in giving her the strength and freedom she needs to accept her limitations and choose the life she is meant to live. Inspired by the true story of the author's maternal great aunt, Miss Jane is an unforgettable literary heroine whose vivid sense of wonder, undaunted trust and generous love is the essence of this brilliantly written novel.
— Jane Glaser
Since his award-winning debut collection of stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men, Brad Watson has been expanding the literary traditions of the South, in work as melancholy, witty, strange, and lovely as any in America.
Now, drawing on the story of his own great-aunt, Watson 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: sex and marriage. From the highly erotic world of nature around her to the hard tactile labor of farm life, from the country doctor who befriends her to the boy who loved but was forced to leave her, Miss Jane Chisolm and her world are anything but barren.
The potency and implacable cruelty of nature, as well as its beauty, is a trademark of Watson's fiction. In Miss Jane, the author brings to life a hard, unromantic past that is tinged with the sadness of unattainable loves, yet shot through with a transcendent beauty. Jane Chisolm's irrepressible vitality and generous spirit give her the strength to live her life as she pleases in spite of the limitations that others, and her own body, would place on her. Free to satisfy only herself, she mesmerizes those around her, exerting an unearthly fascination that lives beyond her still.