Jackson's Pond, Texas tells many stories: the story of a family, the story of a strong woman, but mostly it tells a story of place—Jackson's Pond. An oasis in the barren, wind-blown prairie land of the Texas Panhandle, Jackson's Pond is not only a tiny lake but also a little town with the comings and goings, the dramas and, sometimes, comedies of small town life.
Willa Jackson, aging but strong both in body and mind, is the central character. Willa has lived all her life on the Jackson Ranch, from her childhood in the tenant farm house through her long and continuing years as ranch boss along with her husband Frank Jackson and later, her grandson-in-law J.D. Like any good rancher, Willa rides and ropes but she also nurtures herself as a painter and dancer. Willa's family figures almost as fully as she as the tales unfold. Her daughter Melanie, at times controlling and very nearly cruel, has a softer, almost comic side as she carries on an illicit affair with her former husband. Melanie's children, Claire and Chris, have different reactions toward their mom. Daughter Claire becomes a nurse practitioner, dedicating her life to the health of her neighbors and her hometown, while son Chris can't get out of town fast enough and after college he never returns. Like his grandmother, Chris is an artist and is the one who finally lures Willa away from Jackson's Pond.
Author Teddy Jones' technique of varying both point of view and time made me dizzy at first but after I gained my balance I came to like it—mostly. A few of the scenes and tertiary characters seem to impede the story rather than move it forward, but there is sufficient thrust that this is a minor detail.
As the town dies a lingering death, and the pond dries up, life goes on. Some folks stay and others, including Willa, go on to new adventures. Finally in her 80s, Willa grabs her paints and her keys, and hops (those years of ballet stretches certainly worked for Willa) into her pickup, still going strong. A satisfying conclusion.
As a native of that empty Panhandle country I felt right at home with the wide horizons, the roaring winds, and the independent and caring folks. I enjoyed the many stories and was sorry when it was over. Now I wonder—what happens next?
Appropriately for a book with a heroine named Willa, this book was a finalist in the "Willa Literary Award" competition held by Women Writing the West.
Teddy Jones certainly knows whereof she writes. She lives and farms in the Texas Panhandle near the fictional Jackson's Pond and, like Claire in the novel, she has been a nurse practitioner as well as a professor and college dean. This is her second novel. Visit her website.
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