Jackson’s Pond, Texas Series #4
Rural Fiction / Small Town Texas / Literary Fiction
Publisher: MidTown Publishing
Date of Publication: February 5, 2023
Number of Pages: 281 pages
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A stranger comes to Jackson’s Pond and everything changes.
Marva Cope, the fourth novel in the Jackson’s Pond, Texas Series, brings new elements to the story of the small town in the Texas Panhandle.
Marva arrives as the new postmaster in 2017. She brings with her a lifetime of hesitancy to open herself to others. It is here, while living with her elder Aunt Violet, that she comes to appreciate the value of true friendships. With new relationships, long walks, and conversations with herself, she comes to terms with her difficult past…the loss of a beloved teenaged brother in a tragic farm accident, her father’s death from a broken heart, and a distant mother who had no love for the young teenager.
Troubled teenage years followed as a flawed young man lures her to New Mexico, then left her alone with their newborn daughter. With her newfound courage of trusting others as friends, she reconnects with her daughter and a college dorm-mate she had deserted in years past. In Jackson’s Pond, she finds the ability to consider what to do with the rest of her life.
PRAISE FOR MARVA COPE:
“There is so much to admire in this wise and luminous novel. Marva Cope is written with abiding tenderness and compassion.”
—John Dufresne, author of Storyville
“The novel Marva Cope is a rarity— an artfully told “coming of age” story that morphs into a “getting on with life” saga that, in the end, celebrates the simple joys of human connection.”
—Martha Burns, author of Blind Eye
Clueless Gent’s Rating for Marva Cope
Marva Cope is a story unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s a wonderful example of contemporary literary fiction. It’s a coming of age story, but much later in life, which makes it unusual, at least to me. It’s a story that places the sanctity of true friendship front and center.
The story namesake—Marva Cope—is naturally the protagonist. She was raised on a small Texas farm, but left right after high school and never looked back. The story follows her adventures during the years just after high school, and then picks up again with her later in life. The reader is given her many thoughts as she contemplates her own meaning of life, as well as where she belongs in the world.
I found the structure of the book to be somewhat unusual. It starts with an older Marva moving in with her Aunt Violet in Jackson’s Pond, Texas. They hadn’t seen each other in decades. Shortly after arriving, they sit down and Marva begins to tell Violet her story. This backstory literally takes up the first half of the book, and even then it stops when Marva was around twenty or so and jumps back to present. However, those first few years after high school defined Marva’s mindset for all the missing years. The remainder of the book is dedicated to Marva settling down in Jackson’s Pond, still wrestling with her place in the world.
I’ve never seen “friendship” discussed and defined as much as in this story. In a sense, their views of friendship make Marva and Violet kindred spirits. However, Violet had already learned the secret of friendship, while Marva was still learning.
Characters typically draw a reader deeper into a story. This book is no exception to that. Marva and Violet are wonderful characters to spend time with. However, there is another character—Chick—that I want to highlight. Chick is a Jackson’s Pond character, probably a little older than Marva. I distinguish him because he’s a character that I really disliked when first introduced, but by the end of the story I was a huge fan. That doesn’t happen often in my reading, so props to the author on that.
The author does not go overboard with description in this story, but the description included is very good. For example, I think her description of a sunset is among the best I’ve ever read: “The sun edged down over the distant mountains and the few clouds scattered in the Technicolor blue sky echoed the late rays’ coral, then gold, then faded as behind them on the east, the twilight rose.” Beautiful!
Another thing I like about this particular author’s writing is her attention to the little details. I think little details add a huge amount of realism to any story. One such little detail in this story was when Marva and Violet are having a discussion while having a glass of wine. While contemplating a response, Marva stared at the ring the wine glass had made on the table. That’s the kind of “little detail” that I was talking about. I think it really helps to immerse the reader in the story.
The character arcs in this story are a bit different. The main arc—Marva’s—is particularly odd because of the way the story ends. The author sort of leaves it up to the reader to complete that arc.
Something else I liked was the little snippet from the local paper that the author included at the beginning of each chapter set in Jackson’s Pond. In all but one case they were not related to the storyline, but they did help to solidify the small town setting.
Overall, this story has a sad resonance about it. But I liked it. A lot. The story has an ending that is both sad and uplifting, yet it left me very satisfied. I’ve read two of the other three books in the Jackson’s Pond series, and I can say this is a wonderful addition. I highly recommend it!
I received a free copy of Marva Cope from Lone Star Book Blog Tours in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are my own.
Teddy Jones is the author of five published novels, as well as a collection of short stories. Her short fiction received the Gold Medal First Prize in the Faulkner-Wisdom competition in 2015. Jackson’s Pond, Texas was a finalist for the 2014 Willa Award in contemporary fiction from Women Writing the West. Her novel, Making It Home, was a finalist in the Faulkner-Wisdom competition in 2017 and A Good Family (not yet unpublished) was named finalist in that contest in 2018.
Although her fiction tends to be set in West Texas, her characters’ lives embody issues not bounded by geography of any particular region. Families and loners; communities in flux; people struggling, others successful; some folks satisfied in solitude and others yearning for connection populate her work. And they all have in common that they are more human than otherwise.
Jones grew up in a small Texas town, Iowa Park. Earlier she worked as a nurse, a nurse educator, a nursing college administrator, and as a nurse practitioner in Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico. For the past twenty years, she and her husband have lived in the rural West Texas Panhandle where he farms and she writes.
GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
A set of all 4 Jackson’s Pond, Texas books, a copy of Nowhere Near,
and a $25 Amazon gift card.
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 3/17/23)
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