In this debut memoir, a South Carolina native explores her coming of age in a beach town where generations of her family have both gotten rich and hit bottom while serving vacationers oblivious to the haunting histories of the region and local communities.
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.
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.