Staff Pick: Little Jordan
A 13-year-old girl’s summer of self-discovery in a rural Southern town unfolds in impressively graceful prose in this poignant first novel. Meg’s summer begins traumatically when she stumbles upon a dead three-year-old girl along the banks of the Little Jordan River. Isidore, the missing infant’s grief-crazed, pregnant mother, attempts suicide; but she later recovers, and Meg helps deliver her next child. The usual rites of adolescence materialize when Meg develops a crush on a neighboring farmboy, who gives Meg her first kiss. Combining lyricism with uncompromising realism, Youmans conjures Meg’s churn of emotions as she copes with her mother, whose latest lover is a cruel, shifty jerk, and with her absentee father, a drunk who abandoned the family for another woman and ran off to teach English in Mexico. Although Youmans-whose work has appeared in Ploughshares, the Little Magazine and other small magazines-doesn’t develop her characters or situations fully, her sensitive portrayal of a girl wise beyond her years, struggling to grow up as she negotiates grim realities, makes this a fine novella.