The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson is part Southern family drama and part mystery. Laurel Hawthorne wakes up and sees the ghost of a young girl in her bedroom. When she gets out of bed and looks out the window, she finds her daughter’s friend, Molly, at the bottom of the pool. The police rule the death a tragic accident, but Laurel thinks that there was more to it than that.
Laurel ends up calling her sister, Thalia, to come help her do the dirty work and solve the mystery. Thalia and Laurel are polar opposites. Laurel is content in her family life and her job as a quilt designer in the suburbs, and Thalia is an actress who is in an open relationship with a gay man. They have not been speaking for years, but Laurel swallows her pride and invites Thalia to come help her, not realizing what the price she will pay for this is.
Another interesting character in the novel is Laurel’s cousin, Bet, from DeLop, a depressed mining town where Laurel’s mother and family lived. She is pen pals with Laurel’s daughter, Shelby, and is staying with them for a while when the tragedy occurs. Your heart goes out to this girl who carries her clothes around in a trash bag and longs for the family life she sees on her visits. Her mother, Sissy, is a drug addict who hardly knows or cares where her daughter is at any given time.
This novel was a delicious blend of family drama and mystery. There are so many ways that the death could have been explained, and I was surprised by the culprit. This is our book club selection for December, and I really look forward to discussing it this coming Saturday.