Jones grew up in a place famous for wide sandy beaches and an aggressive, fun-in-the-sun tourism industry ... That humid, brackish universe seeps through the pages of Low Country. A storyteller from a long line of Southern storytellers, Jones forgoes tidy narratives and traditional story arcs. Her childhood was way too chaotic for that. There is a swampiness to her telling of stories-within-stories that meander and recoil and circle back on themselves, holding the reader in her thrall through every zig and zag ... With childlike wonder, Jones pulls back the Spanish moss to reveal the swampy muck of her youth and blends it with tall tales, weather reports, history lessons, and family lore in captivating, lyrical prose that carries the reader along like a slow river water park ride on a lazy, sunny day.
Starting with the narrator’s account of seeing the ghost of a woman she once knew, we are pulled into the depths of a landscape made vivid through its densely layered stories. Jones takes this responsibility seriously, as she carefully uncovers detail after detail of her experience of South Carolina, providing a more dynamic sense of setting. In addition to gaining leeway by including the supernatural, Jones also takes liberties with embellishing the story ... Jones’ attention to language is what makes this memoir a stunning read ... At times amusing and other times heartbreaking, her care with language shines through in every page ... Jones provides a brilliant look into the cracks of a family, channeling the folktales and sayings from her ancestors, and bringing them to the page ... The trauma passed down through Jones’ line is fraught, but her storytelling conveys compassion to the characters that helped shape her life.
There is sharp prose ... There are also some clunky metaphors ... There are distracting asides to the reader ... And some phrases that are just confusing ... There are also phrases that hold the whole thing together ... I had little interest in stories of the hard-drinking, sometimes violent, often broke, outlaw country musician-father and much more interest in the women ... The violence that threads through these pages is brutal: physical and verbal abuse that would leave most of us shattered ... The matter-of-fact way Jones writes about hurricanes is some of the best regional writing in the book ... A difficult, sometimes meandering, but ultimately, powerful debut.
Jones has succeeded in the role of family archivist, imploring us to see that the story of the Jones family is the story of South Carolina, and the story of J. Nicole Jones is the story of the women who preceded her. Low Country teaches the ways family is born out of place, and the ways we are born out of each other ... Jones makes us feel intimate with her home in the Low Country through her renderings of great uncles, rejected cousins, and sympathetic grandparents ... There is not much difference between family histories and the parables of our places, and Jones illustrates the reasons someone would prefer to remember stories as mythologies; the less real people become in our minds, the less material their violence.
Reading Low Country...is like listening to a country music song written by Dostoyevsky (lots of crime, but the wrong folks getting punished), with Tom Robbins as his side man. And a little Tennessee Williams thrown in. There’s no doubt this talented young woman can write, often brilliantly. Many a passage of this familial strife and personal coming-of-age chronicle fairly hums on the page, amplified by sharp observation, razor-edge emotion and a delicious turn of phrase ... The book opens on a mournful tenor which is generally sustained throughout, though with a magma chamber of rage just below the surface. Jones’ eccentric use of language, while arresting, could have used judicious cutting, the digressions particularly. Editing can be a tightrope walk between retaining the author’s distinctive voice and reining in her more self-indulgent impulses. And sometimes Jones overplays her hand, extending a delightful phrase past the breaking point. Wonderful descriptions, metaphors and similes compete with strained ones.
... a haunting, lyrical narrative ... Jones crafts a gothic setting for a literary memoir, while maintaining an invitingly informal narrative voice. With a series of vivid snapshots, she charts the rise of her family's wealth as they acquired beachfront properties, as well as the hidden tolls of domestic violence and drug abuse. The author's writing shines ... ones's gift for spinning a tale is readily apparent, and her intertwining the history of the Low Country with her own familial history gives the book depth. A haunting memoir with poetic prose that will appeal to a large audience, owing to its interesting subject and skillful writing.
Jones debuts with an intoxicating if puzzling story of her dysfunctional South Carolina family ... Jones gambles on a speculative climax to her family’s story that fails to deliver. While her sentences are finely wrought, they can’t mask a weak narrative spine. This tale of a tourist-trap childhood would make a great beach read, if it weren’t for the unfocused delivery.
Ghosts and legends swirl in an affecting family memoir ... a captivating debut ... The author also lovingly portrays her feckless, hard-drinking father, who aspired to country-music stardom; her mother, often anguished and overwhelmed; and her beloved Nana. Her confidential asides to readers create a genuine sense of intimacy. Lyrical prose graces a deftly crafted narrative.