When Bianca appears late one night at her brother’s house in Santa Ana, she is barely conscious, though not alone. Jubilee, wrapped in a fuzzy pink romper, is buckled into a car seat. Jubilee, who Bianca feeds and clothes and bathes and loves. Jubilee, who Bianca could not leave behind. Jubilee, a doll in her arms.
Told in alternating points of view, Jubilee reveals both the haunting power of our lived experiences and the surreal possibility of the present to heal the past.
The first thread, “Before Jubilee,” follows Bianca in her girlhood home on the Mexicali border as she struggles with her high school sweetheart, Gabe, and a secret they’ve shared since she was fifteen.
The second thread, “With Jubilee,” is told from the point of view of her new love, Joshua, who, along with Bianca’s family, helps her cope with a mysterious trauma by accepting Jubilee as part of the family. As Joshua’s love for Bianca grows, he fears that Jubilee has the power to tear his tiny family apart.
Alternating chapters give readers a unique perspective on Bianca’s present and on her relationship with Jubilee as her past life with Gabe comes to a catastrophic end.
Jubilee is at once a darkly suspenseful psychological drama and a luminous reflection on how beauty emerges from even the most traumatic of experiences.
In Givhan's intense, artfully woven psychological drama (after Trinity Sight), a woman treats a doll as if it is her living infant child. Bianca Vogelsang, 20, shows up at the home of her brother, Matty, bleeding and bruised, and insists a doll she's carrying is her daughter, Jubilee. The reader soon comes to learn that the smart, ambitious Bianca, a poetry student of some promise in thrall to the work of Sandra Cisneros, had been in an abusive relationship with her high school sweetheart, Gabe, who convinced her to get an abortion at 15. Several months after Bianca shows up at Matty's house, she kindles a romance with a fellow student Joshua Walker, and becomes pregnant again, but even thnen is unable to let go of her belief that Jubilee is her daughter. Givhan flashes back to when Bianca was pregnant at 15 and Gabe threatens to abandon her and sexually assaults her. Another flashback dovetails with the book's climax and sheds more light on Bianca's attachment to Jubilee, which has consequences for Matty and Joshua. Bianca's repeated meditations on bodies of water as a source of life ("Rivers take, yes, but rivers bring back") and the echoes of lines from Cisneros add rich lyrical layers to the fast-paced plot. Givhan rewards readers with a fiery story.