In Girl Trouble, acclaimed writer Holly Goddard Jones examines small-town Southerners aching to be good, even as they live in doubt about what goodness is.
A high school basketball coach learns that his star player is pregnant--with his child. A lonely woman reflects on her failed marriage and the single act of violence, years buried, that brought about its destruction. In these eight beautifully written, achingly poignant, and occasionally heartbreaking stories, the fine line between right and wrong, good and bad, love and violence is walked over and over again.
In "Good Girl," a depressed widower is forced to decide between the love of a good woman and the love of his own deeply flawed son. In another part of town and another time, thirteen-year-old Ellen, the central figure of "Theory of Realty," is discovering the menaces of being "at that age": too old for the dolls of her girlhood, too young to understand the weaknesses of the adults who surround her. The linked stories "Parts" and "Proof of God" offer distinct but equally correct versions of a brutal crime--one from the perspective of the victim's mother, one from the killer's.
Written with extraordinary empathy and maturity, and with the breadth and complexity of a novel, Jones's stories shed light on the darkness of the human condition.
The eight stories in this debut collection maintain a sense of isolation and loss while depicting and dissecting the lives of drifting characters making questionable decisions in a quiet Kentucky town. In the title piece, a father is faced with a moral quandary when his 19-year-old son is accused of raping a local teenager. The others follow similar themes of emotional voids and gaps in trust. In "Upright Man," a college-bound town kid, Matt, befriends "large and muscular and handsome" country-boy Robbie while doing manual labor the summer after graduation. Though Robbie helps Matt get his first girlfriend, Matt secretly desires Robbie's girl and discovers how easily betrayal overcomes good intentions. The strongest entries are "Parts" and "Proof of God," opposite sides of the same tale, narrated in turn by the mother who loses her daughter in a horrific crime, and the college classmate who killed her. Throughout each, the fallible characters are handled with delicate honesty. Though the setting tends to feel repetitive, Jones writes with grace and ease, the selections adding up to a powerful sum of reflection, loss and regret.